DES MOINES, Iowa – About a dozen people are being thrown out of their dangerous apartment building, while their landlord lives a lavish life.
After several warnings to clean up the apartment building at 718 Fifteenth Street, the City of Des Moines is closing it down. It’s just too dangerous. Lights and smoke alarms in hallways don’t work, ceilings leak, and tenants say they deal with an infestation of insects and vermin.
The city has repeatedly warned the owner, prominent local architect and business owner Kirk Blunck to clean the place up. Now, the city is giving tenants 30-days to get out. Tenant Doug Jones is disabled. He doesn’t know where he’s going to go, “It`s not fair and it`s tricky, I don`t work or anything, I don`t have the ability to double my hours to get rent deposit.”
Jones says Blunck was always good about cashing his rent check, but that’s about all Blunck would do around the apartment. According to city records, Blunck was first warned to fix up the property in June of 2011. Four months later, he blew off a housing board of appeals hearing. After several more warnings, a judge last week ordered tenants to move out.
According to Blunck’s website, his architecture firm is responsible for refurbishing more than 20-buildings in the historic east village, including several buildings that he owns. His website also talks about doing renovations at the Des Moines Art Center, Hoyt Sherman Place, and the Wells Fargo Financial headquarters.
So we went to Blunck’s $600,000, five-thousand square foot home near Waveland Golf Course. We walked past the two Porsches, the BMW, the Volvo SUV and the classic Mercedes in the driveway to ask Blunck why he hasn’t paid for repairs or electricity in his apartment building. We could see him inside, but he never answered the door.
Tenants say he’s a slumlord. ‘I`m angry, really angry,” Jones says. “It`s really frustrating, I don`t know how legally or morally how you can do these things, take people`s money and just leave them in horrible conditions.”