Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Austin

City, residents frustrated with lack of progress at Wood Ridge

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Dozens of residents are still dealing with repercussions after a second story walkway of the Wood Ridge apartments in southeast Austin collapsed this past May.

The collapse, and the fallout that followed, opened a door to months of discussion and frustration.

Everything from affordable housing to emergency management has been considered as the city deals with the faulty apartments, and angered tenants.

"At the end of the day, the safety of the people is in jeopardy,” resident Douglas Robb said. “They were just luck that some kids weren't underneath that balcony when it collapsed."

Frustrated residents searched again for answers during a city Building and Standards Commission meeting Wednesday, but still were left in the dark.
The California-based owners of the building were not present, but a representative from the property management company says help is on the way in the form of a buyer.

"I don't know when the closing date will be, but he is purchasing the property," Ginger Bernstein with Asset Plus Management Company said.

When pressed for details on the prospective buyer, the rep had none.

Most of the families have moved on, according to Austin Code Compliance. Less than half of the Wood Ridge units are occupied.

"We really can't take action tonight. Your commission can't do anything for these families,” housing advocate Ruby Roa said. “The owners can't do anything. The city can't do anything. So the building is substandard. We need your help to find a descent safe place for these families."

According to the city’s code compliance department, no one in the building is in danger, but they do call the living conditions sub-standard.

"Where are these people going to go?” Charles Cloutman with the Buildings and Standard Commission said. “Ninety-eight, 99 percent occupancy in this city--where are they going to go? Are we going to put them out in the city limits?"

Still, the commission is struggling to find a way to force the owner to deal with the mess, and pay the mounting fines that have already topped $75,000.

After that collapse, the city issued 726 new violations for a range of problems from electrical, plumbing and structural to bed bugs.

Many residents chose to break their leases and were able to do so without penalty.

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