By Una Flynn
In response to eviction notices left on their doors last week, the tenants at the Tempo at Riverside apartments in Southeast Austin, along with the support of United Neighborhood Defense Movement (UNDM), mobilized to challenge the eviction notices and force concessions from management with an organized action. The management blamed the necessity of the evictions on the February winter storm, which tenants disputed.
On the morning of April 9, tenants of building 12 along with UNDM members confronted management at their offices with a list of demands, including monetary assistance for rehousing, that all movers’ fees be paid, and that those who had paid rent have it refunded.
“We went to the office as a unit … and said if you guys aren’t willing to find a new place for the people who live here … then we are just planning on not leaving,” said an activist with UNDM, an organization fighting for working-class tenants.
“We didn’t want them to kick us out of our goddamn homes and give us nowhere to go,” said a tenant of building 12. “Through that confrontation, we were able to get demands met.”
The tenants successfully pressed management to assure them that no eviction would take place until everyone in the building had been rehoused. Organizers told Tribune that the next step is holding Presidium Group, the owners of the apartments, accountable and making sure that everyone in the building, not just the tenants involved in the confrontation, have somewhere to live. Presidium Group is a Dallas-based company with assets of approximately $2 billion under their management.
The eviction notices, posted on April 6, threatened the removal and disposal of tenants’ belongings if they remained in their homes past April 13. Citing damage from the winter storms that ravaged Texas in mid-February as the reason for the termination of leases, the notices claimed that the damage to the units would result in health or safety hazards. This left tenants scrambling to find housing in a short time frame with no offer of relocation support.
While there was damage done to apartments as pipes burst and flooded rooms, for many tenants the claim that these evictions were for their own well-being was unconvincing. “They say they are moving people out because of the winter storm, but that didn’t stop them from moving people in after the winter storms,” said one tenant who has lived at Tempo since 2019.
Some had only just moved in when they were told they had to vacate. “We’ve just been here for a few weeks, and then later on they told us that this complex is not habitable and our safety is at risk,” said another tenant.
UNDM organizers said that even before the storm, poor conditions at the complex have been a longstanding issue, with black mold and rat infestations pervasive across many units. ”They really don’t care much about [tenants’] well-being,” said one organizer, “They care a lot more about the opportunity to make money from this situation.”
The eviction notices were not limited to building 12. Three weeks prior, tenants of another building at Tempo received the same notice. The organizers say spacing out the distribution of these notices over time is a tactic to divide people and reduce the chance of tenants uniting to fight back against the evictions in larger numbers.
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