Housing

Harris County approves tenants’ rights policy for affordable housing residents

Harris County has invested $256 million in affordable renting units, and are planning to put another $200 million from the American Rescue Plan into building and preserving affordable housing.

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and supporters announce changes to tenants' rights in Harris County.
Shavonne Herndon / Houston Public Media
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and supporters announce changes to tenants’ rights in Harris County.

Harris County Commissioners have approved a new policy that protects renters from living in deplorable living conditions.

If a housing property is being developed or redeveloped using county, state or federal funds, the policy protects renters' living in those properties from discrimination, while providing due process before being evicted. Renters will also be able to get free repairs and apply for housing free of charge.

"When we allow government resources to go to housing projects with unlivable, deplorable conditions, government is as much to blame as the owners and operators," Commissioner Rodney Ellis said. "It’s a new day in Harris County for thousands of families who are counting on affordable housing, and at Commissioners Court, we passed the policy that we’re laying out today that will ensure any property receiving county funds must abide by tenant protections."

Harris County has invested $256 million in affordable renting units, and is planning to put another $200 million from the American Rescue Plan into building and preserving affordable housing. Ellis said if landlords don’t comply, Harris County says it will remove funding from the housing properties.

"We’re in the midst of an eviction crisis. Since March of 2020, data shows landlords have filed more than 1,170 evictions in this county, making us the third in the nation since the pandemic began. Today, we’re fighting back as much as we can with these new protections," Ellis added. "In addition to $4 million for legal services to help tenants who are facing eviction, funds for legal aid for those facing eviction, plus our new tenant protections, will be a one-two punch against housing instability."

Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio have similar policies in place. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee said she would like to see this plan implemented nationally.

"I am going to be looking for modifications in our federal distribution of housing funds that we require these strict requirements." Jackson-lee said. "Right now, Section 8 has 40,000 people on the list in Houston-Harris County area. That’s federal dollars helping people get subsidies. But when they do that, they’re still in properties that are under par. They’re still subject to eviction, and they’re using federal dollars."