Apartment residents still without water in West Houston

Sunday marks 3 weeks since the start of the winter storm that paralyzed Houston.

That's also about how long the residents at Villas del Paseo 1 and 2 on Elmside Drive in West Houston have been without water. 

They're on strike --  no water, no rent.

The residents continue to walk to large commercial containers to fill buckets and other receptacles with water. This is the water they are using to bathe, wash dishes, and flush toilets.

"We get home from work tired and we still have to haul water home. It's inhumane," said Isabel Urquiza, a resident.

Urquiza's neighbor, Yeseira Araque, watches as mold continues to grow on the walls of her apartment.

Araque's unit shares a wall with the complex's laundry center. The pipes burst during the storm.  She says the mold has caused rashes on her arms and legs. But, most of all, she worries it will harm her 5-year-old daughter who has asthma.

Araque says she's begged management to move her to another unit, but they have not responded to her requests.

"The fact that they are willing to let people live out here like animals, it's appalling," said Oliver Lawrence, an organizer with the Houston Tenants Union

He says the residents contacted the group about a week ago after attempts to contact management were ignored.

Houston Tenants Union has helped the residents plan the strike.

The residents believe pressure from the group and media attention is the reason why on Saturday, plumbers finally arrived.

Erika Gallegos says it's the first time she has seen the plumbing company trucks since the storm.

She and other residents also tell FOX 26, it's only been two says since portable toilets and hand washing stations were installed near the leasing office.

Gallegos claims when church groups and other non-profits began dropping off bottled water, management and property staff began hoarding it.

"The staff was putting 3 to 4 cases of water in their personal cars!" she told FOX 26.

FOX 26 reporter Maria Salazar attempted to contact the property manager and staff at Villas del Paseo. She knocked on the door and could see the manager and a staff member insde the office but they did not come to the door. She also called and sent an email -- neither have been returned.

Houston Public Works reports 7 apartment complexes are still without water -- two of which are Villas del Paseo 1 and 2. Their locations are 3030 Elmside, 2901 Elmside, 7714 Avenue B, 7035 Bellfort, 10550 Valley Forge, 4011 Galveston, and 3715 Los Angeles.

The department reports: 

"Houston Public Works is monitoring these apartment buildings daily to ensure plumbers are onsite and working to restore water service. If there is anyone in Houston that still does not have water, we ask that they please call 311."

Company's response on March 8, 2021

On Monday, FOX 26 recieved the following statement from Villas del Paseo:

"Our team has been working tirelessly to restore water for our residents, and will continue to work nonstop until water access is completely restored. Currently the east side of the property has water. We are doing everything we can to restore water fully for the remaining residents on the west side of the property. One of the biggest challenges continues to be access to needed supplies, labor and resources - an issue many are experiencing across Texas. We are working hard to overcome this and have even rented a U-Haul to transport needed supplies ourselves to get them to the community so we can get repairs completed and water restored as quickly as possible for our residents." 

As of Monday evening, a spokesperson for the company says water has been restored to all units at Villas del Paseo 2 and more than a third of the units at Villas del Paseo 1 have water. The spokesperson adds plumbers from Dallas and other areas have been called in to assist.

Villas del Paseo adds the complex was put on a waiting list for plumbing repairs on February 17th and states plumbers were on the property before Saturday. It adds plumbers were scheduled to begin work on February 22nd but did not show up. The company also notes plumbers began working on February 28th and residents keep abreast of all the changes.

On Saturday, FOX 26 reached out to Comunidad Partners based in San Diego California. The signs at Villas del Paseo 1 and 2 read, "A Buena Vida Community" which, according to Comunidad Partners website, is their brand. On Monday, the spokesperson tells FOX 26 Comunidad Partners is a seperate entity and the complex is managed by Comuna Property Management based in Texas. 

As for the resident's claim the apartment staff was hoarding water, a spokesperson says, "This is simply not true." The spokesperson adds water and food from community groups and leaders began arriving on March 2nd.