Task force to address housing instability in Houston metro

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A task force is coming together to address the economic impact that's put a strain on housing security after the oil industry has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About two dozen members will serve on the Housing Stability Task Force announced Wednesday by Harris County and city officials.

Their primary focus will be preventing evictions and minimizing the economic impacts on renters and landlords through local policy changes.

"Of course I think different members of the task force might not all agree on them, but something that I'm excited about is the possibility of a grace period ordinance in the City of Houston," said Zoe Middleton, southeast Texas co-director of Texas Housers and member of the Housing Stability Task Force. "The state of Texas is one of the few states where renters are not given what's called the opportunity to 'make right' violations on their lease, like being late on your rent. So other cities in Texas have already passed grace ordinances, giving people more time to pay back the rent, and we think that it could be really, really impactful in helping folks stay housed."

According to a new report released by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, nearly half of renters in the Houston Metro are spending more than one-third of their income on housing.
Since eviction proceedings resumed on May 26, more than 2,300 cases have been filed in Harris County.

"Housing stability is public health, so to the extent that people become homeless or have to move around or have to double up with family members, we're putting everybody in Harris county at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, and then we think about the impact on our schools which are supposed to open again in the fall and when you move a family across town or to anywhere where they can find a place to sleep, you're also uprooting a child's development."

Middleton said the task force plans to meet for the first time within the next week and begin coming up with policy ideas to present to the Houston City Council and Harris County Commissioners Court.

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