HMK Tenants Address Dallas City Council

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HMK tenants and their supporters address the Dallas City Council about the low income landlord’s announcement to sell homes to tenants rather than evict them.

This story originally appeared 5/24/2017 on NBC 5.

HMK tenants still worried about West Dallas evictions

WestDallasHouse

DALLAS – Pearlie Mae Brown shuffles her frail frame to the wire fence at the edge of her front yard.

They say home is where the heart is. But for this 81-year-old in West Dallas, it’s also where the heartache is.

“It just hurts me when I think about it,” she said, wiping away tears. “It hurts.”

She is one of the 300 tenants on the verge of being ki1cked out of her home by HMK Ltd. after the city strengthened housing standards. After months of back-and-forth, her landlord, Khraish Khraish with HMK Ltd., announced earlier this week he would be selling the rentals to tenants in good standing for $65,000.

But not everyone is eligible. And not everyone can afford it.

Wednesday morning, Pearlie Mae’s daughter pleaded with city council members for help. She said her mother has nowhere else to go.

“I don’t know how much more she can take or I can take,” Pearline Harper told council members. “Mayor Rawlings, please help us find a solution.”

David Villalobos with the Texas Organizing Project, a non-profit that promotes social and economic equality, said the new deal is no good. He also attended Tuesday’s council meeting.

“This is not a universal solution for all tenants and their families,” he said following the meeting. “There are still people who are going to be left behind and we must find a solution for every last family.”

While the housing debate continues, Pearlie Mae’s dilapidated house is still riddled with problems such as needing to use a knife to open her back door, multiple non-working electrical outlets and a roach infestation, that she would inherit if she purchased the home.

“We have eight generations of family in the neighborhood. Eight generations. And she don’t want to leave,” Pearline said. It’s really hard for me to come down here and see her like this.”

The city council did not make decisions today – instead they just listened, leaving Pearlie Mae, and other residents, still in limbo.

“I just hate to have to move that’s all,” she said. “This is home.”

This story originally appeared 5/24/2017 on WFAA.

HMK Tenants Seek Home Purchase Instead of Eviction

West Dallas resident

Tenants of Dallas landlord HMK Ltd. want help buying the homes they’ve been renting. City officials are now asking the landlord to make it happen, but so far the landlord declines.

“The houses simply will not comply with the new standards, and I’m not about to sell these houses to my tenants who are low-income households and set them up for failure,” said HMK owner Khraish Khraish.

About 200 remaining HMK tenants face a June 3 deadline to leave their homes. The extension until the end of this school year was negotiated with the city in a court order after the landlord first notified hundreds of tenants about a proposed eviction last year.

Pearl Brown pays $430 a month to rent a 560-square-foot house in West Dallas from HMK. It is on the Dallas County Appraisal District tax roll valued at $13,500 in poor condition.

“If they could repair it I would like to stay here, but I don’t know if they can repair it or not,” Brown said.

The 80-year-old tenant has lived in the house for six years. She said it has serious structural, electrical and plumbing problems.

The landlord last year said HMK could not comply with new Dallas housing codes that require rental homes be maintained at a higher standard.

Tuesday, the HMK owner said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and other city officials suggested selling the homes to tenants in a meeting Monday.

“The mayor has vilified me for the past year. He has said that I am a negligent landlord, that I’m a slumlord. He said that the houses are in disrepair. And so he searched far and wide for the best affordable housing option for my tenants, and guess what he found? He found my own homes. And I find that very ironic and very sad,” Khraish said.

Rawlings was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

David Villalobos, with the Texas Organizing Project, has been a tenant representative in meetings with the city. He said tenants wanted to purchase the homes all along because affordable homes are very hard to find in Dallas.

“The thing that was unanimous of all the tenants was that they wanted to stay and own their homes, they wanted a pathway to home ownership,” Villalobos said. “We are asking the city to step up with some assistance to repair the homes if they’re given the opportunity to purchase the homes.”

Tenant Stephanie Hanson said she wants to purchase the 1,040-square-foot home she rents from HMK. It is valued on the tax role at $19,900 and rated in very poor condition.

She does not want HMK to hold the note.

“He says he’s got 60 houses to sell, but all of the houses are still in his name. So what is that? That’s rent-to-own,” Hanson said. “If for any reason he decided he was upset with me, wanted to take the house back, he could and I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

Hanson also accused Khraish of accelerating her eviction by declining her rent payments after she was a day late.

“He’s not accepting it. So he hasn’t accepted my rent since December,” Hanson said.

Khraish said he has declined rent payments from around 80 tenants, which provides them with money for moving expenses.

“She has pocketed three months rent and now she should have enough money to transition out of the house,” he said.

Khraish said dozens of his homes have been demolished as people moved out in the past year. The landlord said he is working with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable new homes on many of the West Dallas lots. He also claims plans to build an affordable housing complex on five acres of land along Singleton Boulevard.

“We can have low-income, multi-family, class A, affordable housing that the community can go to,” Khraish said. “The June 3rd deadline is something the city can extend if it wishes to, but it doesn’t wish to.”

City officials have said they are continuing to negotiate with HMK while also looking for other options to help tenants find affordable housing.

This story originally appeared 3/28/2017 on NBC 5.