Lakeview Tenants Sue Over Displacement
City Council to decide on tenant relocation assistance ordinance that would require landlords to cover moving costs
Former tenants of Lakeview Apartments filed a lawsuit last week against their old landlord Cypress Real Estate Advisors, Inc., for rushing them off the property at 2401 S. Lakeshore Blvd. in anticipation of the complex's demolition last year.
The suit represents more than 60 former tenants, including 24 children, who claim Cypress Real Estate Advisors neglected important repairs, terminated leases prematurely, unlawfully locked residents out of their apartments, and engaged in other intimidation tactics in order to force them out. The plaintiffs are seeking actual and exemplary damages, as well as legal fees, according to the complaint.
"If I do receive compensation, it's going towards me never being put in that position ever again," former Lakeview resident Roxana Castro told the Chronicle.
City Council initiated the drafting of a tenant relocation assistance ordinance at the end of last year in response to the Lakeview controversy. The current language of the ordinance, which could change prior to going before Council on Aug. 4, would require landlords and developers to inform tenants of redevelopment or impending demolition at least 120 days prior to a move-out date – whereas in the Lakeview case, some tenants learned that they would have to move out with only a month to prepare.
The ordinance would also require developers to pay a fee into a tenant relocation fund if seeking special zoning or rezoning of a property. The fee would cover expenses associated with moving, although the city would still pay a significant portion of those costs. "If there had been an ordinance in place at the time, Lakeview might not have happened," said Stephanie Trinh, the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney representing the plaintiffs.
A representative for Cypress Real Estate Advisors declined to comment for the story because the company has yet to be served with the lawsuit.
Some of the former Lakeview tenants have attended stakeholder meetings for the ordinance, even though its approval would be too late to help in their case.
"Lakeview is not an uncommon situation in Austin," said former Lakeview resident Robin Wilkins in a press release. The ordinance "is a test to see if the city of Austin actually cares about keeping working families here. A relocation ordinance won't decrease my new rent, but it would have given me more time to find something I can afford. We don't want what happened to us at Lakeview to happen to anyone else in Austin."