HMK Residents Fight for Promised City Assistance

City of Dallas earmarked money for HMK relocation and repairs

Six weeks after HMK tenants began buying the homes they had been renting, some are struggling to take over the task of maintaining those homes.

They are now responsible for the repairs that HMK owner Khraish Khraish said could not be made on the aging West Dallas properties after the city of Dallas last year imposed the same standards on rental homes that apartment owners face.

Since 2003, 80-year-old tenant Pearline Brown paid $430 a month for a 560 square foot dwelling. The 69-year-old house has rotting floors and other problems, but Brown said the landlord rarely made repairs.

"Everything just started falling to pieces," Brown said.

The home is valued in property tax records at $13,500. Khraish sold around 100 homes to tenants for $65,000 and now they make mortgage payments to him instead of paying rent.

Pearline Brown said she does not have money for repairs.

"I just have to do a little bit at a time," she said.

West Dallas volunteer Ronnie Mestas has been working with Brown to repair the house.

"There are a lot of problems, but it was better than the alternative, which was no place to go," Mestas said.

To help HMK tenants, the city of Dallas set aside $300,000 to be administered through Catholic Charities of Dallas, none of which has come through for Pearline Brown.

"It shouldn't be like this. It's not right," Mestas said.

Mestas helped Brown apply for some of the money but said they have received nothing but red tape.

"We go to Catholic Charities. We do what we're asked to do, and then it goes back to the city for whatever reason," Mestas said. "I've been to City Hall the last three days, end of last week, and I've talked to several people down there. Nobody knows what I'm talking about."

Mestas said they are only making basic repairs to the floor and walls because the purchase is a "life estate" contract which will return ownership to HMK when Brown dies. The property will not be transferred to her family.

Stephanie Hanson is a former HMK tenant who was not offered the opportunity to purchase the home she was renting.

She did receive city relocation assistance through Catholic Charities to pay for moving expenses, first month rent and security deposit at a senior citizen apartment complex.

"It's night and day as compared to the other place," Hanson said.

Her new apartment has appliances, which she had to provide in her HMK rental home. She said she has never been hot with the air conditioning in her new home.

"I think the biggest difference is security, cleanliness and work orders that are performed almost immediately," Hanson said.

The cost is not much more than she paid HMK and she hopes the utility bill will be lower.

Messages to Catholic Charities and the city of Dallas about the repair assistance for tenants who stayed in HMK homes were not returned Thursday.

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