As statewide eviction ban nears end, Houston renters need more help, union leaders say

Renters in Houston face challenges despite a statewide eviction ban. (Courtesy Pexels)
Renters in Houston face challenges despite a statewide eviction ban. (Courtesy Pexels)

Renters in Houston face challenges despite a statewide eviction ban. (Courtesy Pexels)

A statewide ban on eviction proceedings has not been preventing vulnerable renters from losing housing or facing growing late fees, local union officials said.

On the steps of Houston City Hall, AFL-CIO Gulf Coast President Jay Malone and other area union reps hosted a press conference April 16 calling on city leaders to enact ordinances that fill the gaps in current renter protections amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Between March 1 and April 14, United Way of Greater Houston reported that over 13,000 calls seeking rental assistance were made to its 211 helpline.

Landlords can still legally post eviction notices on residents’ doors despite their lack of authority to enforce them, Mayor Sylvester Turner told council members April 15.

“I’ve seen it in my apartment complex, people don’t know the law and there are language barriers so they get the notice and pack up their stuff and leave because they think the cops are coming,” said Anthony Contreras, airport worker and member of International Association of Machinists, Lodge 811.

He added that undocumented workers fear the legal repercussions of missed rent and have been excluded from federal stimulus checks.

Area labor leaders are calling for more specific protections from city hall, such as a ban on eviction notice postings, limits on late fees and mandatory waiting periods for landlords before fees are enacted. They also warned that when the state’s ban on evictions is lifted, which could be as soon as April 30 if not extended, more protections need to be in place for renters still struggling to make ends meet. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economy Security Act does, however, provide extended protections for those living in public housing.

“I know our members want to pay rent and put food on the table, but they’re having to make hard decisions,” said Jennifer Hernandez, member of International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District 88.

Turner told City Council members March 14 that he is working with the federal government to ensure that the city can legally use some of the aid it is receiving to set up a rental relief program. He also told reporters April 16 that both Houston and Harris County are working to appoint recovery czars to manage such proposals.

“We need more flexibility to provide for example rental assistance,” he said at an April 14 City Council meeting. “We don’t want to affect first responders, but if we don’t have the revenue coming into our cities ... it's going to start to affect things like public safety.”

In the meantime, Turner said he encourages landlords to follow the lead of property management companies that have provided help for tenants, such as Camden Property Trust, which established a $5 million relief fund for tenants.

Although some property management companies and landlords can afford such measures, many others cannot, At-Large Council Member Letitia Plummer said.

“I feel like when we allow individual apartment complexes to make their own decisions—Camden is an incredibly wealthy apartment company—there are other ones that are owned by individuals who may not be able to assist in that same manner,” she said while advocating for more city-led interventions.

At-Large Council Member Sallie Alcorn has also been researching and suggesting ways the city can get involved in rental assistance, although no similar efforts have yet been placed by Turner on the Houston City Council agenda. Among other ordinances, she cited Austin City Council's move to require landlords give renters a 60-day grace period before requiring rent payments.

“I have instructed my staff to look around at different cities and look what we can do,” Alcorn said at an April 8 City Council Meeting. "I hope that we can as a council can be creative. I know we don’t have money, but think of ways we can help on the economic side. I think any assistance we give on the rental side has to be coupled with assistance to small businesses and landlords."

Editor's note this post has been updated for clarity.
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.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Located at 26303 Preston Ave., Ste. C, Spring, Wet My Plant will offer a wide selection of tropical plants, cacti, succulents and more. (Courtesy Wet My Plant)
Indoor plant nursery Wet My Plant coming soon to Old Town Spring

Wet My Plant owners Jessica Cohen and Colin Gardipee are planning to open the second location of their Houston-based indoor plant nursery May 1 in Old Town Spring.

More than 125,000 Cy-Fair residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Courtesy Texas Children's Hospital)
Active COVID-19 cases continue to decline as nearly 19% of Cy-Fair population fully vaccinated

More than 125,000 local residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Priscilla Lashley, a KISD parent, hold a photo of Superintendent Jenny McGown maskless at a recent North Houston Association event. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Parents criticize Klein ISD's mask policy

“Everyone should have the right to make their own choices, and I support being able to make your own choices, but I don't support any hypocrisy,” Priscilla Lashley, a KISD parent, said during the meeting.

Nearly 3,700 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Cy-Fair ISD during the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
86 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Cy-Fair ISD schools April 5-11

As of April 12, the district is reporting 91 active cases and 3,601 recoveries.

Costco Business Centers, of which there are only about 15 in the country, carry different products and provide a different shopping experience to members than do traditional Costco Wholesale stores. (Courtesy Costco Wholesale)
First Houston-area Costco Business Center under construction at The Grid in Stafford

Costco Business Centers, of which there are only about 15 in the country, carry different products and provide a different shopping experience to members than do traditional Costco Wholesale stores.

R2, an autonomous delivery vehicle by Nuro, is delivering Domino's pizza to select customers in the Heights area starting April 12. (Courtesy Domino's)
Domino's, Nuro testing robot pizza delivery in the Heights

The robots are coming, and they are bringing pizza.

(Courtesy Fit Kitchen Meals)
IMPACT ROUNDUP: Fit Kitchen Meals coming to The Woodlands and more

One area business opened in January, and four businesses are anticipated through April.

David Memorial Drive currently ends at Entertainment Way. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
David Memorial Drive extension nears end of planning phase

The planning phase for a project to extend David Memorial Drive and connect with Hwy. 242 has reached 90% completion with construction anticipated to begin in January 2022.

Hackberry Plaza to bring 15,000 square feet of space along FM 1488 this summer

The plaza includes two 7,500-square-foot buildings with approximately six tenants slated for each.

Patti Ashcraft has been the owner of That Vinyl Store since she purchased the business in October 2019. (Photos by Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)
Small crafting business That Vinyl Store aims to lift up Friendswood community

In Friendswood, That Vinyl Store not only sells vinyl and vinyl T-shirts, but it also supports other local businesses, owner Patti Ashcraft said.

2314 Piney Woods Drive sold in Pearland in December. (Courtesy the Houston Association of Realtors)
Homes sales down in 3 Pearland, Friendswood-area ZIP codes in February

Fewer homes were sold in three local ZIP codes in 2021 compared to 2020.