The remaining tenants in a rundown apartment complex slated for demolition have big complaints about their landlord, the Dallas Independent School District.
The school district is in the unusual position of operating an apartment complex because it bought the Northpark Terrace Apartments in October to be demolished for a new school site.
“We want to help folks,” said Dallas ISD official Tim Strucely. “Many of these folks have kids in our school and we want to do whatever we can to make their move as smooth as possible.”
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The 310 unit complex was around half occupied when the school district bought it. Strucely said around 30 units still house tenants now.
“Being displaced in the middle of the school year when you’ve got children, that’s not very comfortable. It’s not easy,” said Ronetta Price.
The mother of two school age boys has lived in the complex for more than two years. She said current Northpark Terrace management does not make proper repairs. She said the roof leaks and there are rats in her apartment. She wants to move but finds other choices to be very expensive.
“It’s basically double the rent that I’m already paying here,” she said.
Tenant Charles Beasley moved in last April. He said he would never have done so if he had known the school district would ask people to leave in October.
“They’re very vague as far as the assistance that they’re going to provide, a lot of double talk. They’ll give us one amount then another amount. They’ll give us a date, then they give us another move out date,” Beasley said. “We want to leave, but we want them to be a little bit better partners with us in this relocation process.”
Dallas ISD relocation policy provides just $100 a month for up to 12 months to compensate tenants for the difference of a more expensive apartment. But the relocation assistance is only payable as reimbursement after money has been spent.
Supawon Lervisit, an attorney with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, has been helping the tenants negotiate with the district.
“The school district has obligations as a landlord and a housing provider and it also has obligations as a school district when it relocates people,” Lervisit said. “They’re not getting deposits back. They’re not getting repairs made. There’s just been a host of issues.”
Strucely denied that security deposits have been withheld. He said Dallas ISD has hired managers to run the complex and a separate firm to provide relocation assistance for residents. He said there will be no charge if tenants wish to move to another unit in the complex for the last 3 months, and management is going easy on rent payments to help people save money for moving.
“We’re not trying to be harsh about that,” Strucely said. “We certainly would like to have rent paid but we have not taken any actions against folks.”
Remaining tenants are being allowed to stay until the end of June to allow kids to finish the school year.
The complex will be demolished to make way for replacement of overcrowded Jill Stone Elementary School. The district gave up on efforts to purchase another controversial site that was opposed by neighbors.
Replacement of Stone Elementary was included as a project in the 2015 Dallas ISD school improvement bond referendum that was approved by voters.