New task force to address Houston-area housing crisis in wake of COVID-19

Nearly three fourths of the apartment units under construction or planned for the Greater Houston area are Class A, or luxury apartments with high-end rents. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nearly three fourths of the apartment units under construction or planned for the Greater Houston area are Class A, or luxury apartments with high-end rents. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

Nearly three fourths of the apartment units under construction or planned for the Greater Houston area are Class A, or luxury apartments with high-end rents. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

Harris County and the city of Houston have launched a joint task force designed to address a local housing crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and energy industry downturn. Officials announced the 24 community members named to the Housing Stability Task Force on June 24.

This joint effort is led by Harris County and city of Houston Recovery Czars Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and Marvin Odum, respectively, according to a press release. Members will recommend ways city and county officials can respond to the housing crisis, with special attention paid to low-income residents and communities of color.

On June 23, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University released its State of Housing in Harris County and Houston report, which lists several challenges the region is facing, including a decrease in affordable housing options for renters.

“The affordability once associated with the Houston region was disappearing even before we began to grapple with the one-two punch of economic and public health crises,” Kinder Institute Director Bill Fulton said in a statement. “The issue of evictions does not exist in a vacuum. Evictions have a cascade effect that extends beyond the housing system, affecting the health and future of our community.”

The Houston Housing Stability Task Force will be co-chaired by Harris County Justice of the Peace Jeremy Brown and civic lead Ric Campo of Camden Property Trust. Additional members include the following.

  • John Boriack (Veritas Equity Management)

  • Mark Thiele (Houston Housing Authority)

  • Maria Verdeja (Harris County Community Services Department)

  • Dana Karni (Lone Star Legal Aid)

  • Tom McCasland (Houston Housing and Community Development Department)

  • Courtney Johnson Rose (George E. Johnson Properties)

  • Zoe Middleton (Texas Housers)

  • Chrishelle Palay (HOME Coalition)

  • Claudia Aguirre (Baker Ripley)

  • Alan Watkins (Wells Fargo)

  • Celesté Arredondo-Peterson (Texas Organizing Project)

  • Marcia Johnson (Thurgood Marshall School of Law)

  • Mary Lawler (Avenue CDC)

  • Guadalupe Fernandez (Tahirih Justice Center)

  • Lori Pampilo Harris (Houston Housing Collaborative)

  • Jay Malone (Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation)

  • Jeff Reichman (January Advisors)

  • Diana Zarzuelo (Greater Houston Community Foundation)

  • Cynthia N. Colbert (Catholic Charities)

  • Margaret Oser (United Way)

  • Ana Rausch (Coalition for the Homeless)

  • Howard Bookstaff (Hoover Slovacek)


Officials said the recent economic downturn has not only affected renters but property owners as well. The task force will focus on eviction prevention, mitigating effects on tenants and landlords and stabilizing households for the benefit of public health, according to the press release.


“An eviction can have wide-ranging, long-term financial and psychological consequences, and the problem is much greater than we realize in Harris County,” HHSTF Member Jeff Reichman said. “Judge Brown brought needed attention to this issue by prioritizing eviction diversion in his own courtroom, and city and county leaders have used their respective bully pulpits to extend relief and delay proceedings. We have the data—the next logical step is bringing together key stakeholders to shape meaningful policy recommendations.”
By Danica Lloyd
Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a Cy-Fair reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She covers education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development and nonprofits.


MOST RECENT

Harris County residents seeking a COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be required to sign up for a waitlist effective immediately. (Courtesy Texas Children’s Hospital)
COVID-19 vaccines now available on demand in Harris County

The announcement comes as officials say vaccine demand is falling and will soon be in line with supply for the first time.

Customers can find baked goods and more at The Chef's Bag. (Courtesy The Chef's Bag)
The Chef’s Bag market now offering locally made products in Cy-Fair

Chefs Jennifer Burnett and Kevin Mason recently opened a market where community members can purchase products made by local chefs.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

A grand opening for the local drive-thru coffee spot Mudslinger's has been set for the end of April. (Courtesy Facebook)
Grand opening for Mudslinger's coffee shop set for weekend of April 30

The locally-owned, drive-thru coffee shop will serve specialty coffee, tea, infused energy drinks and breakfast/pastry items.

Reserve Salon & Spa is home to several small businesses. (Courtesy Reserve Salon & Spa)
Ultimate Drip Therapy and Wellness coming soon to Cypress

The IV hydration therapy and vitamin injection wellness spa is set to open next month.

Officials said the district has spent millions on pandemic-related needs. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Cy-Fair ISD: Federal stimulus funds needed to help cover $227M in unexpected pandemic-related expenses

According to data from Cy-Fair ISD, the district has incurred nearly $227 million in unexpected costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homes priced above $750,000, such as this one in the Heights, saw a surge in sales in March, with almost twice as many properties sold. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
Average Houston single-family home price jumps 20% in March

The average sale price for a home in March was $370,847.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

Spearheaded by state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, the new court, if established, would expand the capacity of the county's criminal court system in hopes of reducing its backlog, which stood at 70,951 total cases pending before criminal district courts in Harris County as of April 8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County supports creation of new criminal district court to tackle case backlog

If the efforts are successful, this would be Harris County's first new criminal district court since 1984 when the 351st District Court was created.

Northwest Harris County Municipal Utility District No. 5 covers 22 communities and roughly 2,800 acres around the border of Cy-Fair and Tomball. (Courtesy Northwest Harris County MUD No. 5)
Northwest Harris County MUD pitches bond referendums to keep up with growth, bolster trail system

Northwest Harris County MUD No. 5—which caters to 22 subdivisions around the border of Cy-Fair and Tomball—is seeking voter approval on bond referendums that officials said will help maintain aging utility infrastructure, launch a water reclamation project and bring new trails to the community.