At River’s Edge Apartments in Monroe,
MONROE — Residents displaced from a freak flood in the River’s Edge Apartments are taking it day by day after having their belongings ruined, their food spoiled and their sense of home interrupted.
On Jan. 15, water poured through the walls inside multiple apartment units after the sprinkler system malfunctioned during subfreezing temperatures that night. Water flooded three floors of units in two of the complexes’ five buildings at the east end of Fremont Street near Al Borlin Park.
Alexis Brooks, one of the displaced residents from Building C, had water coming from the ceiling which smelled rotten. She woke her 2½-year-old daughter and evacuated.
The water was traveling from two stories above to saturate Brooks’ apartment.
Hers and 24 other families were displaced from Buildings C and D. As of Thursday, 17 families were still sheltering in three local hotels, according to Sarah Lunstrum, a co-executive director of Monroe nonprofit Take The Next Step, which is coordinating assistance for the residents.
A cleanup and remediation company began its work last week.
The main office for apartment owners Indigo Real Estate and a company vice president did not respond to phone calls from the Tribune by press time.
All residents are middle-class or low-income.
River’s Edge is an income-restricted apartment complex only for people earning 60% or less of the region’s median income level. Rent prices are offset through credits. The limits are because the apartments were built with Low-Income Housing Tax Credit financing.
The city, the county and the nonprofit Take The Next Step scrambled to help.
Take The Next Step has been giving residents grocery gift cards, community navigators and access to legal clinics to help clarify questions on the contracts residents are being asked to sign. They’ve arranged vouchers with Helping Hands Ministries, which has a thrift shop downtown, to provide residents with replacement furnishings.
Residents are still facing unforeseen expenses.
Some went into the Fairgrounds Inn where rooms have kitchenettes, others are in hotels that do not. Some at a different hotel said because they can’t cook like at home, they’re eating out for meals.
Utilities are on the tenant. They’re not sure if they’ll be billed for these services while they can’t use their apartment.
An emergency funding boost from the county issued Jan. 22 is paying the hotel bills from Jan. 25 to keep displaced residents from potentially going homeless. Those not living in hotels most likely moved in with family or friends in their network, Lunstrum said.
Indigo paid for the first week of hotel stays, county human services department spokesman Mohamed Bughrara said.
“We’ve been grateful for the county to back us up with this funding,” Lunstrum said.
What’s being done
Or see the post on the Tribune's Facebook page containing the videos
A Jan. 24 communication from the apartment’s management says it will suspend charging rent until a resident's unit is habitable again.
Residents, though, note apartment management hurried residents to sign a Jan. 29 agreement to accept three months of storage for their personal belongings, and to take a refund of rent from Jan. 15 to 31, while holding Indigo harmless and waiving rights if residents’ goods are damaged in storage, from a copy of the agreement shown to the Tribune.
If it takes longer than three months, the cost falls on them, apartment management wrote in a Jan. 26 letter.
Residents the Tribune spoke with said they’ve heard no promises the units will be ready in three months, and wonder how that could be met: The carpets, walls and fixtures are waterlogged.
And residents are sure once it’s over that they’ll have to pay to move their belongings from storage back to their apartment.
Renter’s insurance was not mandatory at River’s Edge, the Tribune read in a resident’s sample lease agreement. Brooks said she wished she had it after this.
Their leases have a standard clause called “Force Majeure” where Indigo has the right to cancel the leases if an apartment is too damaged by a catastrophe.
Brooks said her family is in the process of moving to a Lynnwood apartment. It’s the reason she’d allow being named in this story. Others wouldn’t because they expressed worry being named by the media could aggravate River’s Edge management to retaliate.
Some residents staying in the hotels said they are finding it hard to secure a different place to live. They’d suddenly need to produce first, last and deposit money to get a new place, when some lacked any emergency savings. Among the affordable apartment complexes in Monroe, River’s Edge is the nicest, Lunstrum said. It’s also one of the newest. It opened just before 2020.
People missed work because they had to address moving their belongings out of their apartment.
One resident described water was coming through electric sockets. Electrical sparks happened. One said she lost a fridge-full of meat. Some were sweeping water out of their front doors.
It’s the inconvenience of it all, a resident said.
Elsewhere in Monroe, a pipe broke at the Evergreen Townhomes on Elizabeth Street the same night as River’s Edge had its catastrophe, Lunstrum said. Take The Next Step is assisting one family from there, and it’s believed that incident displaced a second family as well.
This is what it looked like from inside Brooks' apartment, videos courtesy Alexis Brooks:
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