It’s been five years since I got evicted after losing everything in the financial crisis. (Why? Click on the sidebar tab, “Financial Crisis – Yr 1” to find out) After 10 months of looking, I was finally able to secure an apartment at a Foundation Communities complex.
Foundation Communities is a non-profit organization based in Austin, TX. According to their mission statement, they are an organization focused on helping low income people, people who have suffered some kind of life altering event or a set of life altering conditions. Rent is discounted off market-rate based on your income level.
Often times problems with managers are hard to prove but when you encounter incompetence on this scale, (I’m assuming the problem is inexperience on the job, but it could be a brash abuse of power, egoism) then it’s easy to show the problem by citing violations. As a double major in communications, I really hate this rules based approach because rules enforcement is historically used by powerful people to subvert the truth. However, here It’s appropriate and criticism should be accurate given the dialogical environment afforded us by the internet, blogging sites like WordPress, and social media (The interactivity offered by these new media platforms makes it so). Also, because I’ll include their official statements sent in writing so they can have their say in the matter.
Four years ago, we got a new manager. Using the state and local housing regulations/contracts I’ll show that the deceptive, subversive nature of management goes beyond the individual properties and extends up to the level of district manager at Foundation Communities corporate office….at least, I’ll try. I’m not a lawyer (nor can I afford one) so I’m going to use my most rational mind in this effort. Fortunately, I do have a degree in advertising from a reputable University and have studied some of the case law and social regulations surrounding consumer complaints against vendors in general. I’ve also continue to study philosophy, theology and history. With all this knowledge that I’ve been blessed with, I think I’ll be able to bring a relevant perspective to the conversation.
Foundation Communities is a local, homegrown nonprofit. We provide affordable, attractive homes and free on-site support services for thousands of families with kids, as well as veterans, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. We offer an innovative, proven model that empowers our residents and neighbors to achieve educational success, financial stability, and healthier lifestyles. We own and operate 23 communities all over Austin and in North Texas.Foundation Communities Website
Granted, Foundation Communities does provide low income housing, and free programs for families like daycare, financial counseling, savings programs etc. But, they fund the rent reductions and other programs through grants, donations and federal grants so they are not our benefactors. Yes, the company is a non-profit but they own lots of high dollar properties in Texas in highly developed corridors. While Sierra Vista is an older, renovated property, some of the FoundCom properties are brand new and include luxury apartments that are rented at market rate for residents that do not meet the federal low-income guidelines. They company is sitting on, probably, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate. This should beg the question, “What are the priorities of this organization and its employees/agents”? One would assume that as a helping organization, much of the housing rights abuses committed by traditional, for-profit landlords, would be eradicated (Enter the little engineer in my head barking the same old critique, “Never Assume“). As taxpayers and philanthropic volunteers/donors, we all make up the “Public”, that is, the funding source of these programs. We have the right to expect a higher standard out of organizations who accept our public dollars, money given with the understanding that it will be used to serve the public good in all cases.
That’s the setup, now we cut to the chase:
- Tenants have rights and all Landlords are required to follow the letter of the law
- Helping organizations funded with public money have a higher set of expectations to meet.
Since the latter argument is subjective, it would need to be discussed and that’s the long game which results in big changes (contributing a new perspective to that long game dialogue is one purpose of this blog series). However, the former argument is much more plain and actionable due to the explicit rules that exist so, I’m going to focus on the short game for now.
There have been issues in the past (one of them pretty major involving an indigent elderly woman who could have died) but the easiest thing to start with is the current problem. The manager does not like me because I call her out when she does something that is abusive, irreverent, or disrespectful. I believe sincerely that her behavior shows the kind of immature character that typifies the kind of person who would retaliate against her critics whom, in her hubris, she has labeled as enemies. This kind of irreverent attitude among leadership is not acceptable at any housing community. Bad leadership filters down to the lower ranks of a community, mis-aligns expectations, creates rifts among residents, and ultimately serves to increase the number of incidents of conflict. As a result, the living environment erodes and detracts from residents’ quality of life. At sierra Vista, in my humble opinion, some employees act as if residents are there to serve them. Well that’s reasonable expectation, right?
Apartment employees are there to serve residents. Any other attitude is un-acceptable. I’ll give you a real world example: Here’s a photo of me donating my time with Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Venturing out to share food with low income and homeless folks.
When we go out on a run, WE are the servants. At Sierra Vista, the attitude is one of superiority and disregard for the special needs of the segment of society that gives their mission meaning (I wonder if they would change their attitude if the public money stopped flowing).
It’s hard to describe to people who have never gone through any kind of crisis, but those who have, know that recovery from a crisis is a long road and you never… fully… recover. The abuses that I’ll show in this docu-blog are not acceptable, ever, at any housing community but particularly here, with low income residents, many of whom have suffered a crisis.
So, that’s the 10,000 foot view for this series. Now a case study:
Hi, meet Snoopy
Recently, I was in the office with Snoop, a trip that we’d made dozens of times together. We were waiting for the receptionist to return with documents that we’d requested. The employee was not being mindful and rushed forward with paperwork which spooked my dog and he nipped her because he felt threatened, breaking the skin on her lower leg. The city calls this a “bite” and Snoop had to go into quarantine for 10 days. I was apologetic and the woman was in good spirits saying “That’s ok, I have a dog too”. Then I received harassing paperwork from the apartment manager and got a notice from Austin Animal Control saying that I had not had my dog restrained, which is false and carries other potential penalties. He was on a 6 foot leash per the community rules. The notice of lease violation is attached here, along with my response to their accusations. The pet addendum to the lease is attached for reference. You’ll notice that the language in these documents state clearly that I’m being targeted for eviction based on these false accusations.
This was sent to various local community members who work on housing and helping issues in my local community, including the Austin Tenant’s Council which is a housing rights advocacy organization. The letter was also sent to Foundation Communities corporate office and Adriana at Sierra Vista Apartments.
Updates to follow