The City of Tulsa and housing nonprofits are still trying to relocate residents of an apartment complex near 61st and Memorial a city councilor described as being like a "third-world" country.
Between moving costs, security deposits, temporary hotel stays and other relocation costs, relocating everyone left at Vista Shadow Mountain could cost more than $600,000. Under the latest Treasury Department guidance, it's possible some of the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding could be used toward that, but rental availability in the city is currently low. Most tenants at the complex paid market rates of between $700 and $1,400 a month.
Housing Solutions Executive Director Becky Gligo on Wednesday told councilors at a weekend resource event for remaining tenants of Vista Shadow Mountain, there was a line around the parking lot 45 minutes before it started. Gligo said the stories were some of the worst she’s heard in her career.
"Everything from service animals having to be put down because of exposure to toxic mold to units that were so deteriorated through no fault of the tenant that people could walk from one apartment into the next," Gligo said.
The Tulsa Fire Department recently cited the complex for several violations, and residents must be out by July 21. Fire Marshal Andy Teeter told councilors conditions at the 100-building complex are "appalling."
"At this point, we'll say there's not a building on the property that we're going to let them occupy. It's that bad," Teeter said.
Teeter said 83 buildings are considered in imminent dangerous condition, and 36 of those have residents still in them.
The apartments are in Councilor Lori Decter Wright’s district. She’s been publicizing the situation at Vista Shadow Mountain and said there was a back-and-forth over whether the greater harm was in doing that or letting people stay in the conditions there.
"And especially with what happened like in Florida — we're city officials, and I don't ever want it to be, like, 'City officials knew there was a problem or thought there was a problem and didn't take action,'" Decter Wright said.
City Councilor Jeannie Cue is among several officials now interested in a working group to look into rental properties across the city after conditions at Vista Shadow Mountain came to light.
"What scares me are the people that it is happening to that we don't know," Cue said.
Restore Hope Executive Director Rev. Jeff Jaynes said Vista Shadow Mountain isn’t the first or last time renters have been subjected to substandard conditions and told councilors about one of the nonprofit’s housing inspectors, an Iraq War veteran.
"He said he cleared mud huts in Iraq that were in better condition than some of the apartments that he saw in Tulsa," Jaynes said.
City councilors also want to work with Tulsa County courts so residents leaving Vista Shadow Mountain don’t get stuck with evictions on their records.