Negotiations Ongoing Between Developer and Low-Income Apartment Residents

Residents of the Old Homestead aren’t ready to go

Council Member Chito Vela has postponed a rezoning hearing to allow for negotiations (Photo by John Anderson)

Low-income residents of a North Austin apartment complex are putting pressure on a developer intent on demolishing their homes, and they're having some success in getting concessions. The Old Homestead, located on Clayton Lane near the intersection with Cameron Road, is set to be rezoned for vertical mixed use – meaning developers JCI Residential, an affiliate of the Journeyman Group, will be allowed more height and building size in exchange for affordable units. While the new property will have more units than the current 16-unit complex, residents say they'll struggle to find apartments as affordable – or with a community so closely knit – amid Austin's surging rental prices.

Viridiana Bello, a cosmetologist and resident for almost five years, told us she'd likely be forced to find a new job since her current one is just a few blocks away. "It makes me really sad to think of machines coming in here and destroying this place and tearing down all the trees," Bello said, speaking via a translator. "Since I found out about having to move I've fallen into a depression, and there are times I go out and I cry thinking about what I'm going to lose."

Developers initially offered a month's free rent at one of their other properties, but the residents were not satisfied. Instead, they've formed a renters' association and brought Journeyman Group to the negotiating table multiple times. The current offer would provide residents two months' free rent and allow them to stay at the Old Homestead until Feb. 1, 2023 (an extension from the original move-out date). Journeyman also promised to return all security deposits.

Residents are now asking for more waived rent and additional financial assistance with moving. They've enlisted the help of Council Member Chito Vela, whose District 4 includes the Old Homestead, to postpone the rezoning hearing (originally on the June 9 council agenda) by one week, which allows time for further resident input and ongoing negotiations. Ross Hamilton, vice president at Journeyman Group, said they don't believe the delay is necessary. "We believe the list of concessions offered to date for all residents is fair compensation for relocation," he wrote in an email.

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