Veteran hoping to move back home after getting evicted for expanding bomb shelter

A World War II veteran, who was evicted from his home in 2010 for illegally building a bomb shelter, is hoping to move back home.

Joe Del Rio said all legal issues regarding his home have been resolved, but the City of Austin has yet to allow him back into the house.
The home was condemned six years ago because Del Rio had been building trenches under his house without a permit.

In 2010, after two complaints of suspicious digging, the City of Austin decided to investigate what was going on at 2006 Canterbury Street.

"I was asleep Saturday morning and there was a knock on my door and the guy said, 'Code Enforcement officer' and I said, 'Just a minute, let me put my pants on,' and I went to unlock the door, and he jumped out of the way and I was rushed by police officers," Del Rio said.

The Army and Navy veteran said he was expanding a bomb shelter in his basement at the time. He admits he didn't have a permit to do so. City investigators found that the home was structurally unsound because of that. Del Rio was evicted. The trenches he was digging were filled with cement. All utilities were cut off.

"I felt that the community let me down, the police and all of that, because I was living there and I wasn't harming nobody and nobody has ever come to arrest me for anything else. I was just doing my thing so to speak," Del Rio said.

The home used to be his mother's and he has tried to do everything possible to convince the city to allow him a certificate of occupancy so he could return.

"It's my house and I've owned it since I've been grown up and I just want to come back, that's all," said Del Rio.

"Six years later, after all the legal issues have been resolved, the bottom line is the city basically said, 'We're sorry, we made a mistake,' but left Mr. Del Rio homeless where Mr. Del Rio had to find other shelter options in south Austin," said LULAC District 12 Deputy Director for the Elderly Gavino Fernandez.

Del Rio said he had an engineer inspect the home and document his findings. He says that shows the home is safe to live in, but the city is still skeptical about what happened in 2010, so they have not allowed Del Rio to move back in.

"They're either going to have to make a decision to knock it down or have him come back and do the repairs that it needs you to do, because the city is wasting a lot of time and money going to court," said Del Rio's neighbor David Montoya.

With help from LULAC and an attorney, Del Rio is hoping to get back into his home by summer of 2017.

Fernandez said Del Rio also qualifies for a $20,000 grant for home repairs but he has been denied the money because he does not currently live on the property.

FOX 7 contacted the city for comment on this story, but did not get a response by news time.