Tearing down the blighted Crestmont Village apartment complex is important for the safety of southeast Houston residents. But the City’s demolition ceremony on April 22 was just the first step in a more meaningful process: Building up the surrounding community by breaking the pattern of neglect, disinvestment and concentrated poverty.
The apartments, closed on a judge’s order in 2015 after years of deteriorating conditions, are just one example of the neglect on Selinsky Road. Next door is the Pointe at Crestmont, a complex damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008 and abandoned for nearly a decade. Down the street, residents of the Crystal Springs apartments faced water shutoffs, backed-up sewage, fires and evictions earlier this year. Students at Albert Thomas Middle School across the street must walk past the dangerous properties every day.
Southeast Houston residents have been meeting to discuss the future of the Crestmont site and what they would like to see improve conditions on Selinsky. They believe that the status quo – where low-cost, low-quality housing is built in heavy concentration, ignored and allowed to deteriorate until it becomes unlivable – cannot be allowed to continue.
“We don’t want to see the displacement of any residents, but we also don’t want to see drugs, the everyday sight of blight and people using abandoned properties for crime and activities that endanger our children,” said Debra Walker, a community leader and resident of the adjoining Sunnyside neighborhood.
The Pointe at Crestmont site next door has already been approved for tax credits to build more low income housing on the street. The community doesn’t want to see the same pattern play out yet again – or else the City will be demolishing another failed property in 10, 20 or 30 years.
New development in the community should be high-quality, single-family housing that improves the quality of life for all residents. Any investments must also include real, non-housing upgrades such as infrastructure improvements, so students no longer have to walk home in open ditches, or a grocery store to end the local food desert, or a community center to provide after-school programs.
“We have opened our eyes to the kind of development that would help our community,” Ms. Walker said.
Residents are engaged and demand to have a say in the process after the demolition. Neighborhood leaders say they look forward to working directly with Mayor Sylvester Turner and Council Member Dwight Boykins to ensure that investment benefits their community.