COMMENT OF THE DAY: NEIGHBORHOOD UPGRADES “. . . right now we have policies that are actively working to get rid of our affordable housing in Montrose (and other places as you point out). They’re just disguised as ‘registration’ and ‘certification’ to make sure places are ‘safe.’ That whole process should be scrapped. If someone has a run-down property people will either 1) not live in it, or 2) decide to live in it because the rent is conducive to the building quality. A ‘smart’ property owner might decide to upgrade the place to raise up the rents, whereas another owner may want to keep his place basic and get lower rents. Renters will decide where they want to go.
It’s not the government’s right to force someone to pay more rent because they don’t feel something is at a given level. I’ve said it here before: Almost every building we’ve upgraded and raised the rent on gave us new tenants simply because the previous tenants couldn’t afford it. So who really benefited by our upgrades? Most of our upgrades were done by us outside of government interference (we don’t need to be told to fix things that are obviously not right about the property, our renters, banks, insurance company, etc. do a good job at that) but there have been plenty of times where we’ve done things per city demand that have raised rents and driven current tenants out. I’m sure they’re really stoked that our hand rails in Montrose are now 36″ high vs. 32″ while they now are living in 5th ward rather than the neighborhood they loved and were priced out of . . .” [Cody, commenting on Comment of the Day: Saving Houston for the Next Generation of Newcomers]
Today, two and a half years after city officials shut down the Gables of Inwood apartments and ordered all its tenants to move out, demolition crews began tearing down the squatter-friendly 163-unit, 10-building, 4 1/2-acre Inwood Forest complex — a process expected to take 6 weeks. City officials say they hope to recoup the $400,000 cost of the demo from the owner, Collins Ofoegbu of El Sobrante, California. But that may not be so easy. As of August 2009, Ofoegbu ranked as Houston’s top scofflaw, having racked up more than 700 building-code violations for issues with the property at 5600 Holly View Dr. His attorney told the Chronicle at the time that the warrants couldn’t be resolved until Ofoegbu settled a dispute with his insurance company, which he said had refused to pay for damages resulting from a fire at the complex.
Photo: 39 Online
COMMENT OF THE DAY: EXTREME HOMEBUILDING MAKEOVER, OIL AND GAS EDITION “i understand that safety regulations are lax and/or nonexistent in the housing industry but those people standing on beams/heights without safety harnesses would be kicked off the job in the oil and gas biz. people underneath that manlift is questionable too.
it’d be nice and safer to see other industries held to the same standards as oil and gas.” [joel, commenting on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Meets Extreme Mud: Houston Edition]
REGULAR APARTMENT INSPECTIONS Apartment buildings in Houston with more than 2 units would need to submit to regular city inspections to ensure they meet minimum habitability standards — under a bill expected to get final approval today from the Texas House: “Under [State Rep. Dwayne] Bohac’s bill [HB 1819], the city would get broad authority to set up its own inspections regime. One of the mayor’s closest policy aides, Andy Icken, is already working with city lawyers to draft an ordinance for City Council consideration this year. ‘Having a clear, established state law and city ordinance would clearly communicate to all the stakeholders what our expectations are,’ said Icken, a deputy director with the city’s Public Works and Engineering Department. The bill, which only applies to Houston, requires the city to maintain standards for sturdy and sealed walls, floors, windows and ceilings. It also requires complexes to maintain such basics as hot water, working toilets and heating systems. There’s also a provision requiring each unit and building in a complex to have lighted signs so that emergency personnel can locate them at night. Owners who don’t comply would face civil and criminal penalties.” [Houston Chronicle; more details (PDF)]
VISTA BONITA APARTMENTS: STILL OPEN FOR THE HOLIDAYS! Where’s everybody going? Sure, the gas is turned off, but really, what’s the rush? “Most residents have moved, but those from about 20 apartments remain in the 144-unit complex near the Gulf Freeway and Airport Boulevard, [Vista Bonita Apartments owner Nanik] Bhagia said. Many of those who remain are close to finding apartments, but are embittered that Bhagia has given them such short notice. . . . Bhagia on Tuesday said residents don’t have to move out immediately — if they need more time, they can have it. State law generally affords tenants — depending on their lease — more time than a few days to move out. Bhagia’s notice to vacate is not a formal eviction process. But he could seek to evict tenants who don’t leave.” [Houston Chronicle; previously]
VISTA BONITA APARTMENTS CLOSING MONDAY The owner of a rundown apartment compound on the edge of South Houston where a boy drowned late last month has decided to shut down the entire 144-unit complex rather than correct unsafe conditions identified by the city: “In a brief phone interview Tuesday, [owner Nanik] Bhagia repeated his pledge to refund November rent and security deposits. He said he also would pay residents’ application fees at new complexes, but ended the call when pressed for specifics. Some tenants have said the office often is closed, and they were not sure Tuesday how to take advantage of his offer. Bhagia later e-mailed the Chronicle to say that tenants ‘will be paid when they turn in the keys and do not take away any of our appliances. We are not running away.’ The child’s death prompted more scrutiny from city inspectors, who descended again on the property and issued dozens of new citations. Residents say Bhagia blamed conditions on Hurricane Ike, but the city has been issuing tickets for years.” [Houston Chronicle; previously]
THE CASE AGAINST GOING PAPERLESS At least 72 safety-violation cases against the owner of a run-down apartment complex just outside South Houston were dropped last year because the paperwork was lost, say city officials. A toddler drowned in the apartment’s pool earlier this week. “Randy Zamora, the city’s chief prosecutor, said an outside company hired to digitally scan some 7 million archived and pending tickets might have misplaced the documents. The error allowed [Nanik] Bhagia, who did not return telephone and e-mail requests for comment on Wednesday, to delay for a year facing a jury or making repairs to the Vista Bonita Apartments, 9313 Tallyho. . . . Police investigators said the boy may have reached the murky pool by stepping through a damaged fence or a faulty gate, both of which are violations of city code.” [Houston Chronicle]