Amid the continued coronavirus-related economic downturn, City Council voted to approve a grace period ordinance Feb. 17 that would extend the amount of time renters have to resolve payment issues to March 31 before a landlord can pursue an eviction.

The copy of the ordinance was not available at the time of the meeting, but agenda materials describe its enforcement as following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction order. Under the CDC order, renters qualify if they have used best efforts to obtain government assistance, make less then $99,000 individually or $198,000 as a household, are unable to make full rent due to substantial loss of household income, have made efforts to make full or partial payments, and would be rendered homeless if evicted.

Without the grace period ordinance, tenants in Texas have three days to resolve a missed payment before landlords can file an eviction. This begins the process of scheduling a court date and if granted by a justice of the peace, county constables forcing a renter to vacate.

Turner said the city is pursuing the grace period ordinance to allow local officials time to coordinate the recently approved $159 million rent relief program distributed by Harris County and the city of Houston. Officials are also working through the details of a $1 billion rent statewide relief program announced by Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 9.

“I do not think people ought to be evicted while these dollars are coming in this time period because the dollars are there,” he said.

Applications for the Houston and Harris County rent-relief fund will begin for landlords Feb. 18 and for tenants Feb. 25.

The move represents a shift in view for Turner, who opposed a potential grace period ordinance pushed for by the Houston-Harris County housing stability task force in July.

“With millions of Gulf Coast residents suffering without power through freezing temperatures, the catastrophic failure of our state government to prepare is yet another reminder of the critical need for local action to keep our neighbors safe. We’re thankful to Mayor Turner and the City Council for passing this ordinance today, and look forward to continuing our work with the city to strengthen and extend protections and keep all Houstonians housed," said Jay Malone, Political Director for the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation in a news release. Malone is also a member member of the Harris County Housing Stability Task Force.