Mayor Turner pulls Houston out of Harris County's housing stability task force

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the work of the housing stability task force will continue through the city's housing and community affairs committee. (Courtesy HTV)
Mayor Sylvester Turner said the work of the housing stability task force will continue through the city's housing and community affairs committee. (Courtesy HTV)

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the work of the housing stability task force will continue through the city's housing and community affairs committee. (Courtesy HTV)

Houston has withdrawn from a housing stability task force it formed in conjunction with Harris County officials, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Sept. 11.

The task force was established as a way for tenant and landlord representatives who work outside of elected positions to provide housing policy recommendations to Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Turner's previous handling of the task force drew criticism from some members after he refused to consider a grace period ordinance within the city despite a unanimous recommendation to adopt one.

In his statement about the decision, Turner wrote that the work would continue under the housing and community affairs committee made up of only City Council members.

"While I am proud and thankful for the work that has been done by the Task Force members," he wrote. "It is now time for the City Council Committee on Housing and Community Affairs to continue this work for the City of Houston."


Some members of the task force however say their work was just getting started.

“This is absolutely still needed,” said Jay Malone, Gulf Coast AFL-CIO political director and member of the task force. “Unions in our regions have experienced mass layoffs. We’re going to continue our advocacy.”

A spokesperson for Hidalgo said the task force will continue to work with the remaining members to implement their recommendations.

However, with Turner's decision, the city will no longer receive recommendations from the committee.

The announcement came a week after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order took effect nationwide Sept. 4, effectively banning evictions for renters affected by the coronavirus’ economic fallout as long as they supply a written declaration of need.

Richard Tomlinson, an attorney who often represents tenants in eviction proceedings though Lone Star Legal Aid, said it is still not clear if justice of the peace courts will consistently adhere to the CDC order or if landlords will find loopholes to its enforcements.

“I don't think landlords are going to gain very much by challenging this because there is always a way for a tenant to comply," Tomlinson said. "Most tenants who fill these out are going to really fit the qualifications, but I don't know how landlords are going to respond or how this rule is going to be applied in [justice of the peace] courts."

Turner’s statement pointed to the city and county’s rent relief funds established in the spring and again in mid-August as reasons to view the task force's work as successful. He has repeatedly said that financial assistance is a better policy option than a grace period that gives renters time but does not absolve them of debt.

“To date, the city has allocated $35 million in rental assistance, and the County approved an additional $25 million, totaling $60 million in rental relief. These programs provided much-needed relief to landlords and tenants at a critical time,” the statement read. “Because of this work, tens of thousands of people in the City of Houston and Harris County were able to stay in their homes, protecting their safety and the safety of their families.”

According to data from data analytics firm January Advisors, whose principal Jeff Reichman also sat on the task force, eviction filings have slowed over the course of the coronavirus pandemic but were beginning to rise in August and September before the CDC order was put in place.

Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 1, Harris County saw over 2,300 evictions filed compared to over 5,500 filed between Feb. 1 and March 1, the month preceding Houston’s lockdown orders in response to the coronavirus. In April, when the most eviction protections were in place at the state and federal level, eviction filings fell to 628.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


MOST RECENT

Lamar High School Houston ISD
Houston ISD opens school choice application window for 2021-22

Houston ISD is opening its school choice application window earlier than previous years but with an earlier deadline as well.

Rothko Chapel
After extensive renovation, Rothko Chapel set to welcome visitors again

Admission to the Rothko Chapel is free, but tickets will be required, and visits will be limited to 30 minutes.

Dr. Sam Rolon is a physician for Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine in The Woodlands. (Courtesy St. Luke's Health)
Q&A: St. Luke's physician shares advice on flu season, vaccine and prevention

The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly all patients of all ages ahead of this year's flu season, Dr. Sam Rolon said.

student in mask
TEA launches statewide COVID-19 dashboard for public schools

The Texas Education Agency, in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, has launched its latest COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases in Texas public schools.

Motorists can expect some delays on I-69 Southwest Freeway at I-610 West Loop from Sept. 18-21. (Courtesy TxDOT)
TxDOT: Weekend closure on I-69 Southwest Freeway at I-610 West Loop

Motorists can expect some delays on I-69 Southwest Freeway at I-610 West Loop from Sept. 18-21.

Francesca’s boutique clothing store is exploring “strategic initiatives” after the company announced 2020 second quarter net sales losses. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bankruptcy a possibility as Francesca’s boutique chain explores ‘strategic initiatives’

Francesca’s boutique clothing store is exploring “strategic initiatives” after the company announced 2020 second quarter net sales losses.

Houston Police Department is joining Harris County's cite-and-release program. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston Police Department to join Harris County cite-and-release program

Houston Police Department is joining Harris County's cite-and-release program.

The Houston Food Bank is looking for more volunteers as it handles increased food distribution during COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)
Houston Food Bank: COVID-19 pandemic amplifies already-high food insecurity rates across region

Before COVID-19, the Houston Food Bank distributed about 400,000 pounds of food daily. That number has since increased to about 1 million pounds a day.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Sept. 17 that data from Texas' 22 hospital regions will dictate when certain businesses can reopen at 75% capacity. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, gyms can reopen at 75% capacity as early as Sept. 21

Nursing home and long-term care facilities will also be allowed to reopen for visitation as early as Sept. 24.

Vehicles drive alongside the Tomball Tollway in Harris County. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Newly formed corporation could divert Harris County toll road revenue to non-mobility projects

A new limited government corporation formed by Harris County Sept. 15 could result in surplus revenue from the Harris County Toll Road Authority going to other county needs outside of the realm of transportation and mobility.

Mayor Sylvester Turner has announced a public awareness and cleanup campaign to target PPE litter. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston coronavirus updates: City starts plan to target PPE litter

Mayor Sylvester Turner has announced a public awareness and cleanup campaign to target PPE litter.

(Courtesy Curry Masala)
Curry Masala opens in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from Greater Houston.