SAN ANTONIO – Last week, San Antonio Councilwoman Melissa Cabello-Havrda, Police Chief William McManus, city staff, and West Side residents dropped in on a local apartment complex that’s been on the city’s radar for years after facing many issues.
“I was genuinely shocked at the conditions that these people are being asked to live in -- good people, working families that have never called me,” Cabello-Havrda said, referring to the . “They’ve never said, ‘Hey, we’re having these problems,’ because they’re trying to survive.”
But the West Side apartment complex riddled with crime and poor living conditions is just one example of San Antonio’s larger problem. In August, tenants at Seven Oaks Apartments in another district made headlines as they marched to Austin demanding repairs and changes at their complex.
“It’s about not only the safety of the people that live in my district, in my city. It’s about their dignity,” said Cabello-Havrda.
The short-term solution is the consideration of adding a couple of code compliance officers to target problematic properties. Cabello-Havrda said the increasing cost of living and shortage of affordable housing calls for the city to do more.
“We need a bigger policy change. We need to talk about tenants’ rights,” she said.
Sandy Rollins with the Texas Tenants Union agrees with Cabello-Havrda.
“We’re in a very landlord-friendly state,” Rollins said.
She said renters need courage, money, and time to fight for their rights and stand up against landlords. The process is not easy, and Rollins says landlords take advantage of the situation.
She says cities that push compliance with code enforcement should develop policies that protect tenants.
“We’ve seen in some situations where code will come out, they’ll put pressure on the landlord,” Rollins said. “The landlord (will) say, ‘I’m just going to close this property. Here’s your notice to the tenants.’”
Rollins’ nonprofit organization puts on a free tenants’ rights online seminar every month. Click here to find out more about the resources available.