The housing situation of three Cedarwood Apartments families remains in limbo, as negotiation talks between protesters and Conquest Student Housing seem to have halted.
According to Costanza Rampini, a fifth-year environmental studies major and community activist, three Cedarwood families have yet to find permanent housing and have been living with friends in Isla Vista and Goleta. Meanwhile, Conquest owner Alan Smolinsky said the decision was made not to further financially compensate the evicted tenants from the recently renamed Coronado Apartments, a move contradicting last week’s overtures to compromise with protestors and thus end their boycott.
“The owners of the Coronado property already provided three months of free rent to the former tenants,” Smolinsky said. “The owners have no intention of providing additional monetary assistance.”
Rampini said Smolinsky’s response is disappointing and also described it as misleading. After the tenants sued the owner of their former apartment complex, alleging discrimination as the cause of the eviction, she said a court order forced the company to allow tenants to remain without paying rent until a hearing could take place.
“The court settlement was no charity,” Rampini said. “It wasn’t coming out of the kindness of their heart.”
The controversy involving Conquest began in August, when a company then known only as 6626 Picasso, LLC, evicted all the tenants from the 55-unit Cedarwood Apartments, located at 6626 Picasso Rd. Several rallies led mostly by UCSB student leaders ensued, as well as fundraising efforts to help the tenants fight their evictions in court. The tenants claimed discrimination, citing that most of them were low-income Latino families.
Conquest was revealed to be the property management company of the complex during the weeks leading up to the trial and represented the defense in court. Conquest’s relationship to the ownership remains unclear, such as whether – regardless of having investors – it was the entity that made the decision to evict the tenants.
The tenants and Conquest settled on Oct. 1; however, community activists have continued their efforts by staging a boycott of the two Conquest-managed properties in Isla Vista: Breakpointe Apartments on Abrego Road and the recently renamed Coronado Apartments, formerly known as the Cedarwood Apartments.
Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs Joel Rodriguez-Flores said the evicted tenants have faced numerous obstacles to find other housing in Isla Vista, such as meeting an income requirement necessary to be approved as a lessee. He said one former tenant applied for a new residency but was turned away for unknown reasons.
“We’re not sure why she got turned down,” he said. “Under her previous place of residence, she put Cedarwood Apartments – who knows if that had anything to do with it.”
Regarding the boycott of Conquest Student Housing, Rodriguez-Flores said protestors planned to “step up” the protest after dissatisfaction with Conquest’s response to negotiations.
“Smolinsky should tell the investors that the boycott will hurt their business and prevent them from getting tenants until they respond,” he said.