While my family's experience is a personal heartbreak,
the tragedy would be if this continues to happen to other people;
particularly when our public officials are aware of it.
An investigation will help assure future accountability.
A City of Austin federal tax-funded Home 'Improvement' & 'Affordable'
loan program rendered my Home Demolished & UN-affordable
The willful an negligent
actions taken by the City of Austin (CoA) and its contractor
Transformed and original $17K home improvement project
into an $86K+ Repair Nightmare
click here to download file DO NOT CONCUR RESPONSE TO COA AUDITOR MEMO
click here to download file
Information: click # 1-6 below
1. MARGARET SHAW & MARC OTT - LeadSmart; Federal Housing Funds; Stimulus $
2. SUMMARIZED NARRATIVE - One Page Outline
3. NIGHTMARE IN EAST AUSTIN (as read on KOOP Radio 11/21/2007)
4. QUOTE: Asst. City Manager; PHOTO; 4 CONSOL. LETTERS to City Manager Marc Ott
5. The 'SKINNY' (short) version
6. The 'FAT' (long) version
7. Supporting Testimony - Patterns/Practices
Travis County Green Party Referral for investigation (December 2008)
SYNOPSIS: Chambers Family Experience
Federally-funded City of Austin home "improvement" / "affordable" housing program:
- demolished my home and rendered my home UN-affordable.
- created an excess of $86,000. worth of additional needed repairs;
- contaminated my home with lead & cadmium paint dust to the point of it being classified as hazardous waste.
- Under threat of foreclosure by the City of Austin, my family (incl. a toddler) and I were required to live in the contamination for 6.5 years years.
- My son incurred neurological injury;
Our family endured painful chelation treatments; We all tested positive for elevated levels of Total Body Burden Lead;
A top specialist in the nation and leading expert confirmed that our family had incurred bodily injury as a result of the
prolonged exposure to contamination ( brought about by the City's enforced 6.5 year wrongful residential requirement upon
- The CoA contractor quit and abandoned the project; the City of Austin
failed to resume the project and in fact the project was never completed or
rehabbed through the CoA program.
- CoA Never applied the Federal funds from the City's escrow account to my home, yet created loan servicing documents that implied otherwise.
- My signature was forged.
- CoA Passed inspection and billed me for electrical work, that I later discovered from an expert electrician's report, had not been completed,
was substandard / in violation of code and posed a fire hazard. -- (a kitchen light fixture, that had been installed by the City's contractor, later
caught on fire.)
- The City contractor's substandard roof replacement
work ultimately caused a flood in the attic, and water damage inside the kitchen
walls and cabinets.
- The contractor:
- performed substandard
and perhaps fraudulent work,
- caused damage to my home
- created an environmental
- billed for work that was not done, or was substandard
- abandoned the project
- The City applied a type of 'ransom' by refusing to resume the project unless
I surrendered my contractual rights
- I did not surrender my rights; and
- the City never resumed the project,
- the City held me liable for the loan funds as if the City had completed my home, and as
if funds were released from the City of Austin AHFC escrow account,
- When in Fact
- AHFC never turned loose of the funds ;
- no funds were applied to my home,
- my home was abandoned,
- demolished by CoA's & its contractor's actions; and
- My home was never rehabbed by the City of Austin.
- The contractor:
The City and a City Council Member demanded that
I release the contractor from liability and dissolve the already breached (by the contractor) contract.
was later tipped off that the Council Member
whom I’d been seeking assistance from,
the insurance agency that provided coverage for the contractor; Austin Housing Finance Corporation re. my project; and several
other municipal rehab projects
- How does this comply with H.U.D.
Subpart K, 570.611 “Conflict of Interest” sections b & c ?
- (Austin Housing Finance Corporation) website: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/ahfc/
- Board Members
of AHFC comprise the mayor, City Council and City
- AHFC “is a public nonprofit corporation and instrumentality
of the City of Austin under the provisions of the Texas Housing Finance Corporation (THFC) Act, Chapter 394 & Local Government
- AHFC & NHCD
(Neighborhood & Community Development) have contracted to work in partnership to use “HOME” & “CDBG”
Federal Grant $ funds given to the City of Austin by HUD.
- NHCD is the City’s Policy MakerAHFC is the sub-recipient that facilitates the construction
of homes & implements the City’s Housing Programs.
- NHCD’s Contractors’ insurance coverage also provides coverage for AHFC –AHFC administers the City of Austin’s Federally-funded housing programs.
click WE HAVE QUESTIONS:
NIGHTMARE IN EAST AUSTIN:
As it was read on KOOP RADIO
SHOW ‘A NEIGHBORLY CONVERSATION’
(Wednesday November 21, 2007)
“A City of Austin ‘Rehab’ Job
that Totaled My Home”
A City of Austin
‘Affordable’ Housing Home ‘Improvement’ Loan Rendered My Home “Unaffordable
I’m the only one of the 3 parties (City, Contractor, Me) who actually abided by the contract. Yet
I’m the only one whose been
penalized and held to the contract’s terms. The
Contractor abandoned the project and breached the contract. The City did not
release the Federal Funds from its escrow account to my home. And yet the City required
me to repay the ‘loan’ per the
terms of the contract, as if funds were applied;
and the City of Austin demanded that I relinquish the contractor from
and from the contract, while the City of Austin simultaneously enforced that very same contract against me
– the client was the ONLY one who did NOT break the contract.
did the City of Austin: Punish the client for the contractor’s misdeeds; and reward the contractor for bad behavior?
While I could’ve pursued a rehab loan through traditional means, I chose instead to work in
partnership with the City of Austin because of its advertised desire to retain and attract members to my neighborhood through
the homestead incentives that it offered.
Unfortunately, my experience with the City’s
loan program proved to be far more costly and disruptive to homeownership than a traditional loan ever would have been.
What the City advertised in order to attract participants vs. what it delivered appears to be a violation
of the public trust, and raises the question of bait & switch
tactics. While a traditional loan application process rarely exceeds 2 months,
the City took approx. 15 months to process my application. My son was 1.5 years old at that time. He is now
14.5 years old and we have only recently completed the majority
of the rehab project that the City should have completed over a decade ago in 1996. Additionally, we are still repairing damages caused by the City and its contractor.
City’s contractor performed substandard work and demanded payment for work either not done or not done to code. Then
she abandoned the project shortly after the job commenced. The City passed inspection on faulty wiring that
was later inspected by an outside expert electrician who considered it to be a fire hazard. The City demanded
that I pay the contractor for substandard work; and also failed to replace the contractor and resume work on the project.
In fact the City demanded that I relinquish the contractor from any liability & dissolve my contract, thus
demanding that I surrender my rights and protections. Needless to say, I declined to comply
with this demand UNLESS the City would provide in writing an alternate document that legally preserved
my rights and protections per the original contract. After nearly 2 years of being given the runaround by The City, I filed
Both the City and the contractor abandoned their obligations per the terms of the loan agreement. Construction, was
supposed to take only 3 months. However 9 months later, and apprx. 6 months after the contractor abandoned
the project, the City still had failed to replace the contractor. My home sat empty and
decaying from exposure. For lack of alternate shelter, my toddler son and I moved back into our house that was
now in worse condition than it was before
the City touched it. Upon returning, the first words out of my 3-yr. old son’s
mouth were “House Broken”… he immediately grabbed a bucket of primer and began painting.
We returned home to find used condoms inside the house and throughout the yard and driveway. If
it were not for my family’s own sweat equity, and use of our personal funds, to complete the project INCLUDING remediation
of damages created by The City & the City’s contractor, my home would still be incomplete, and deteriorating. It
was also later discovered that after the City’s “con”/DEstruction project on my home, the interior structure
and the yard were subsequently contaminated with extremely high levels of lead and cadmium dust from the City’s
contractor’s questionable removal of old paint. The area was so severely contaminated that the soil was
actually legally classified as hazardous waste, and the City dump would not even accept it.
Although (to my knowledge) no loan funds were ever applied to my “rehab” project;
however The City held me liable for the funds as if they had been applied. In essence, The
City of Austin required me to repay a loan that I never had. As part of these terms of repayment, The City of Austin required
me and my young son to reside in the structurally and environmentally hazardous home for over
6.5 years. The City of Austin enforced its residence requirement via a lien with Power of Sale.
City was aware that the home was classified as “hazardous waste”, yet still
refused to relinquish their enforced residence requirement of me. Even after the financial reports reflected
that I owed a zero balance, the City refused to remove the lien for over another year. Consequently,
my hope to give birth to another child was crushed. Lab tests for my husband, son & I have
all tested positive for elevated levels of lead.
The rehab project was originally bid at ~
$17,000. However, because of the damages that were created by the contractor’s incompetence,
and ultimate abandonment; combined with the City’s failure to resume the project, additional and extensive weather damages
were imposed on my home. The City’s and Contractor’s negligence hence transformed an originally estimated
$17,000. rehab job into a Repair Nightmare that was last bid for $86,000. Both, the estimated $86,000
Repair Nightmare, PLUS the repayment of the original loan (that apparently the City never applied) was solely covered
at my & my family’s expense.
Early on after the contractor abandoned work on and caused damage to my home, I
attempted several efforts at resolution and subsequently requested the City settle cost of repairs for $25,000.,
(a fraction of the cost of the actual repairs). The City Council instead authorized no less than
$177,000. of taxpayer money to hire outside private legal counsel to suppress my claims that I ultimately
had no other choice, but to file. At least 2 Council Members (including one Council Member who owned the insurance
agency that insured the contractor, PLUS other City rehab projects) were aware of the City’s & Contractor’s
violations, yet Council still authorized taxpayer monies to be used in a litigation against me.
This chronic state of
unsettledness in our home affected my son’s health and well-being during his formative years. It altered the course
of our family life, our social life, our education & careers dramatically. It defined the span of my son’s childhood.
In hindsight, a traditional loan would’ve been far less costly and more
of promoting homesteads in my neighborhood.
2003 & 2007, the City of Austin LeadSmart
program received $1.8 Million, and $3.7
Million in Federal Grant
Money. To Date, the City of Austin has declined to take responsibility for the lead contamination it caused
to my home.
- Austin Housing Works hosted the Housing & Education Summit
(11/10/07). Superintendant Pat Forgione emphasized the
interdependence between school perfomance & access to safe decent housing.
The repercussions to my son's education as a result
of our own housing crises, brought about by the City of Austin’s handling of my project, is no exception.
I. OUTLINE - THE 'FAT' (Long Version):
-- A Broken 'American Dream':
- Home Ownership
- Home 'Improvement' Loan -- CoA 'Affordable' Housing
'Rehab' Loan Programs
Shoddy Practices -- CoA Project Mngmnt; Inspections; Contractor Workmanship:
- Home Destruction
(at the hands of CoA's Home 'Rehabilitation' Program)
City of Austin's Stonewalling
C. Criminal Concerns:
for Federal Housing Grant Money
D. Under the BIG Thumb -- Retaliatory & Pressure Tactics, Collusion, Conflict of Interest:
- Retaliatory / Pressure Tactics (apparent)
- Intent to Harm
Energy & Related Matters
E. Neutralizing 'Neutrality' -- CoA's Blind
- Conflicts of Interest; &
- Lop-sided Contracts
F. Stacked Deck -- Resolution Attempts; 'Kangaro-Court':
- Resolution Attempts
- Kangaroo Court / Stacked Deck
G. From the Ashes & Rising:
- Still Standing -- Moving On
II. BEYOND THE INDIVIDUAL -- A SYSTEMIC AFFECT:
A. Other Homes, Other Lives
B. New Wave of Housing and Redevelopment
C. Your Tax Dollar$ NOT at Work
- Duplication & Waste
- Are Local Tax Dollar$ suppressing Local Corruption?
Incentives? OR Creative Eminent Domain?
III. CONCLUSION --
THE NEED FOR INVESTIGATION (Criminal & Systemic Abuse?):
click WE HAVE QUESTIONS: