State Rep. Vo is a serial slumlord

After last week's news that state Rep. Hubert Vo is a slumlord (who owns a $4.5 million mansion), the Chron's Matt Stiles took a field trip to visit Vo's other properties. What he found is that last week's discovery was not an isolated incident:

Residents in local apartments owned by state Rep. Hubert Vo live in conditions that appear to violate numerous health and building standards, a Houston Chronicle review of the properties has found.

In recent days, the Houston Chronicle documented exposed electrical wires, rotting wood, broken and boarded-up windows and other potential violations of the city's "minimum standards" for occupied buildings.

After seeing the Chronicle's photographs, inspectors from two city departments pledged investigations into properties owned by Vo, D-Houston, saying the conditions could lead to misdemeanor criminal citations.

"There was nothing in those pictures that wasn't a violation," said Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department's neighborhood protection division. "You have to keep your property to certain minimum standards, and that's what these are falling under."

The Chronicle's inquiry began last week after city inspectors, acting on complaints, cited Vo for conditions at an apartment complex he owns in the East End. There, inspectors found open electrical boxes, loose wiring and inadequate balcony railings all misdemeanor violations.

Vo's other properties, in varying degrees, showed similar problems, though one complex was outside the city limits and not subject to post-construction inspections.

Among other potential city violations at three complexes were overflowing Dumpsters, damaged parking lots and an algae-filled swimming pool all conditions that could prompt criminal fines.

Vo, who has owned the properties for years, took blame for the problems Wednesday, saying he had not done enough to ensure the complexes were maintained. He said he would improve the conditions, pledging personal inspections of individual units, cooperation with city officials and outreach to residents to encourage them to report concerns.

So, while Vo touts himself as "Dedicated to Public Service" and "Accessible. Responsive. Independent.," he has actually not been interested in serving the people who pay him rent each month, until Stiles started poking around. Examples:

Tomasa Compean, 58, has lived for 18 years in her one-bedroom unit, where she pays $450 a month and has never received new carpet or paint. White powder bug poison outlines her baseboards, and a leaky faucet has left a large patch of rust and mildew in her tub, which apartment officials have covered only with paint.

[snip]

"The worst things are the roaches and mice. That's just too much."

Carmen Aguilar, whose two-bedroom apartment faces a dusty courtyard next to a swimming pool filled with opaque green water, pointed to a buckled wall and a large, moldy hole above her bathtub.

Meanwhile, Vo is having a pity party:

Vo said he knew he would face criticism:

"It's going to affect me very much. It's going to kill my reputation. I just have to move on and try to repair the damage.

It's all about him. Poor Hubert Vo.

KEVIN WHITED ADDS: Be sure to click over to the Chronicle photo gallery of the Vo Slums. This photo of a murky green swimming pool is pretty good, although the actual structural violations of the slums are more of a concern. Certainly, the photos are quite a contrast from those of Vo's personal real estate!

RELATED: More Vo Real Estate for Sale: Memorial Mansion with Multiples (Swamplot)

BLOGVERSATION: Houston Politics, Lose an Eye, It's a Sport, Swamplot.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/10/08 05:06 AM | Print |

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