Austin: Tenants Get First Win in Housing Struggle

Cover Image: Springdale Gardens apartment complex, east Austin

By Wanda Fuentes

The tenants at Springdale Gardens in East Austin forced the property owner to concede to their first demand, the firing of property manager Regina Wright. Last week, graffiti appeared on the side of the management and leasing office reading, “Fire Regina Wright!” along with 14 other demands from residents.

The working class tenants have been struggling since February around the issues involving Wright, who has a reputation for abusing her petty authority.

Tribune of the People reached out to one of the residents who said, “After all that stuff was done at the office, the owner, it really caught his attention you know? He said, ‘you know what? Whoever it is means business.’ They are not playing around.”

After local news ran an article in February regarding tenants having their gas shut off, the residents reported that various nonprofits showed up, but did not remain when things got tough as social-distancing and stay-at-home orders went into effect, except for Defend Our Hoodz (DOH), an organization focusing on housing struggles.

One of the deserting organizations, local nonprofit ‘Building and Strengthening Tenant Action’ (BASTA), was unable to gain support from the community. Monica, a tenant of the complex stated that she told a BASTA organizer, “What can you really do for us? You don’t live here, you don’t know what we are facing. I don’t want to pay rent.”

Unlike other organizations, DOH has managed to inspire tenants to continue and advance their struggle in the current economic crisis, with one resident insisting, “You know, BASTA, they got their ass run out of here, they left with their tail in between their legs.” She continued, “They were about nothing, you know? Y’all [DOH] pushed us, we got together, we got to talking and everybody let their anger out and that is when everything came out.”

On Wednesday the owners of Springdale Gardens sent out a letter to all residents, addressing their decision to remove Wright, stating, “Management will continue to review messages to the office.”

The people of Springdale Gardens and community organizers could not be clearer, considering that their message to the office in the form of large posters glued to the side of it, placed 15 demands, 14 of which have yet to be granted by the owners. Residents have expressed a willingness to continue the fight, inspired by the small victory of Wright’s firing.

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