Homeowner: "This dream home has turned into a nightmare for us.”
Owning a home is the American Dream. For many, that dream is out of reach.
That's why a project to build affordable houses where Sioux City's Lowell School used to sit, was a welcome addition to the north side in 2012.
Now, some of those homeowners say the project was too good to be true.
“This is our home, that we own this home. We really didn't think that this was possible to own a brand new home,” Coty Bolles told us weeks after moving into her new home in Moos Meadows in 2012.
Now, Bolles says, "This dream home has turned into a nightmare for us.”
Bolles claims it didn't take long for that dream to show cracks.
"Eight months after we moved in we started noticing problems. The counters had completely pulled off the wall,” she recalled.
Bolles said she called the developer.
"They came out and fixed the first set of problems we had,” she said.
However, not long after, the problems reappeared, with some new ones.
"You can't help but notice them. You go to close a door, it doesn't latch. You have to lift up on it. Doors swing open by themselves. I opened my curtains one morning and there's one all the way down the wall. You hang up your coat, the closet doesn't close. So, you look up and there's another crack. Every day. Every day it's something different. The cement used to be up where the red paint is. It's sinking,” she said pointed to the cement sidewalk butting up to her house.
Still, she said that was nothing compared to what she would find in her basement.
"I was shocked actually, I didn't think I was seeing what I was seeing. So, then I started pulling up the other throw rugs I have and I was like, what is going on,” recalled Bolles.
Cracks run from wall to wall on her basement floor.
"This is the biggest one. This is the side of the house where the crack in the foundation is,” she said pulling up throw rugs to reveal the large cracks.
She said she's reached out to the developer, Sam Moos of H & S Properties, several times.
"We call Sam and said, 'I need you to deal with this. 'Well, I'm out of town next week, I'll get there next week.' Ok fine, I give you some time. I call him again, 'Sam this is serious. I need you to step up and do the right thing. 'Ok, I will.' I said, 'look this is the last time,” Bolles recalled.
Her neighbors say they've had trouble getting a hold of Moos, too.
"I leave a message all the time, every year, and never answers, never calls back,” said Oscar Azpeitia, another homeowner in Moos Meadows.
We gave Moos an opportunity to respond.
“We have a company. I don't always answer my cell phone. I tell them all the time, 'don't call me, call the office.' If they tried to call me, it's very possible A lot of times I'm working, I don't answer my cell phone,” said Moos.
As for the home owners’ claims that Moos doesn’t return phone messages.
"That's not true. Nobody left me a message,” answered Moos.
"He ignores our phone calls or won't call us back,” Bolles neighbor Tiffany Vanderlinden said.
Vanderlinden said the problems in their home started immediately after her family moved in.
"Our carpet rolled up within a month. We had the snap together wood pieces for our dining room and kitchen. Those popped up,” added Vanderlinden.
"Laminate's a great product but if it gets wet it does buckle,” said Moos.
The Vanderlindens saw Moos Meadows as an opportunity.
"We saw a chance and said, 'this is great and we qualified for it,” she explained.
A partnership with the city of Sioux City and the federal government, Moos offered these homes to buyers with lower incomes. The program seemed perfect for Mike Cramer and Sammy Fowler who moved into a phase two home last December. Although they say they're happy with their home and wouldn't want to live anywhere else, they're worried that their neighbor's problems are a sign of things to come.
“I'm not full 100% sold that we got the thing that we deserve,” said Cramer.
Sammy's begun jotting down problems that have popped up.
"The porch support beam is cracked all the way up the side. The counters are separating from the wall. The dining room wall right over here is separating from the floor. I can literally push the wall and there's like a crack and it will get bigger. That's kind of scary that I can just do that,” said Fowler pushing the wall above her shower to reveal the crack.
“The insulation was falling when we moved into the house,” added Fowler.
Vanderlinden said she and her husband have spent $10,000 of their own money to fix the carpet, kitchen floor, and other issues.
“It's for low income people to qualify, so what makes you think we have the money to have to keep fixing all of these. We bought it as new so we didn't have to worry about these things,” Vanderlinden said.
"Just because they're a brand new house doesn't make it magically there's not things that need to be done or things that happen,” Moos explained.
"If it was one or two problems I could understand it. I've got an array of problems. It's just massive,” Bolles pointed out.
Azpeitia said he's noticed cracks cropping up too, inside and out.
"I haven't seen any of the cracks. Concrete does crack. It's a normal drying process,” Moos retorted when asked about the home owners’ complaints.
Bolles said she thinks Moos is over his head.
"I think he realizes that there are some serious issues with some of these houses and he doesn't want to address it. He thinks if he just ignores it, that we're going to go away. I'm not going away. I'm not going away,” said Bolles.
He admits he'd never done a project of the caliber before, but Moos stands by his work, calling this a "feel-good" project. Something he thought would be great for the community.
“I think it's a beautiful development. I'm proud as can be when you drive by and see those houses. They are built, extremely, like the hardboard siding, and the concrete siding, and that. Considering what was there before, considering what was there and what you see now. They look beautiful,” he pointed out.
However, for a few who live here, they say looks can be deceiving.
"I feel very stuck. In a dream house that I loved and now I feel like it's just caving in on me,” said Vanderlinden.
Stuck they say, with no place to turn.
"Where do you start? Who do you start with? Where do you go,” asked Bolles who says she and her husband feel lost about where to go with their problems is Moos won’t fix them.
The City of Sioux City says all of the homes passed inspection and met code before they were occupied.
In a follow-up phone call Sam Moos, said Bolles may have legitimate concerns and that he feels 10% responsible for the problem.
He added that he'll never take on a project like this again, but said he would buy back any of the homes from the unhappy home buyers for the price they paid.
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