‘I’m here for my community’: Students protest increased fees at Riverside complexes under new management

Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said that the protest was about increased rent prices, but it has been updated to reflect that students protested fees, not increased rent prices. The Texan regrets this error.

The student-led coalition Rise Riverside protested increased cleaning and repair fees on Saturday, after a change in management at the Estates and the Village at East Riverside, two of the area’s apartment complexes.

Rise Riverside advocates for UT students living in Riverside, an East Austin neighborhood that houses many students who commute to campus. The organization is “working toward expanding bus services (and) removal of attendance policies,” according to their Instagram and list of demands. This past weekend, they protested rising housing costs in the neighborhood and excessive fees from housing complexes.

Getting ahold of Hilltop, the current management group for the Estates and the Village, to resolve fees has been challenging said Mariah Sanchez, a government senior and former Village resident. She has sent several emails related to fees, including cleaning charges and a rent increase by $180 a month after adjusting her lease. Because of raised rent costs, Sanchez moved to a different apartment complex.

“I don’t understand those charges because I left (my apartment) in good condition,” Sanchez said. “I thoroughly cleaned everything. With the new company changes, they have a complete loss of records. They don’t know what the previous condition of our units were.”

Sanchez said she believes the University should educate freshmen on their rights as tenants, as well as the actions they can take to prevent additional charges so they have the knowledge to avoid situations like this. 

“I want people to be equipped with knowing what their rights as tenants are,” Sanchez said. “How to look out for predatory apartment complexes, how to properly record all the damage and how important it is to keep all of that … I think that there could be better education surrounding that.”

William Ramirez, a former Estates resident and organizer with Rise Riverside, said he faced additional charges while moving out of his apartment. By protesting, Ramirez hopes he can aid Riverside residents who don’t have the time or knowledge to advocate for their fees to be canceled.

“I did get some fees … resolved,” said Ramirez, an economics and humanities junior. “I got taken care of. I’m not here for myself, I’m here for my community.”

A member of Hilltop staff was present at the protest but declined request for comment. 

Kaitlyn Marcatante, a sociology senior, said even though she doesn’t live in the Riverside area, she participated in the protest for students who are facing the cost effects but don’t have time to dispute their fees individually, as many students in the Riverside community are working to support themselves.

“Our big ask, ultimately, is to cancel the fees,” Maracatante said. “I think the issue with (residents individually resolving the fees) is a lot of people don’t have the ability because a lot of students and marginalized communities live here … There’s just so many students that can’t be (at the protest).”