Houston Matters

UPDATE: UT Report Criticizes How City Of Houston Conducts Apartment Inspections

The City responds it is “reviewing the findings and recommendations”

Residents of the senior living facility located at 2100 Memorial Drive that the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) has been trying to vacate after hurricane Harvey can stay at the apartment complex, according to a temporary injunction filed by Judge Daryl Moore.
A report released by the University of Texas criticizes the City of Houston’s programs and protocols regarding the inspection of apartment units and apartment complexes, such as the one this file photo shows, which is located near downtown Houston.

A report released this week by the University of Texas  criticizes the City of Houston’s programs and protocols regarding the inspection of apartment units and apartment complexes and recommends multiple changes to fix what it categorizes as an “epidemic.”

Professor Heather Way authored the report, which was specifically prepared by UT’s School of Law’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship and Community Development.

The report has seven findings that point to problems with the way in which City departments –mainly Public Works and the Department of Health— conduct inspections.

One of the findings of the report is that the City “rarely sends inspectors out to apartments to investigate tenants’ reports of unsafe apartment conditions and closes cases without ensuring the issues were addressed.”

According to the report, the fact that inspection programs exclude many multi-family rental properties is another problem, along with the ineptitude of the City’s 311 Service Center which, also as indicated in the report, “frequently refers reports of apartment safety issues to the wrong department.”

The report has nine recommendations that cover a wide range range of topics, including educating tenants about their rights regarding repairs and where to look for help, as well as producing detailed and frequently updated online reports about problematic properties and consolidating the City’s oversight regarding health and safety conditions at apartments into a new “Apartment Safety Division reporting directly to the Mayor.”

The City of Houston said in an email it is “reviewing the findings and recommendations.”

“This is not the first critical report that the University of Texas School of Law – Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic has released about apartment regulations in large Texas cities. But Houston is unique in Texas because it has the third highest number of occupied apartments in the country. About half of all Houstonians are renters. We will evaluate the recommendations as we continue the work of improve the programs and the services we offer the community,” the emailed statement asserted.

A City official disputed one of the findings.

Porfirio Villarreal, a public information officer with the Department of Health, told Houston Public Media that the, while the report says the department’s Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention “has only two investigators in the entire city to enforce indoor health issues at apartment complexes,” the bureau currently has three investigators.

“It’s a very thorough report, so we are gonna take a look and see if there’s anything where we can improve our processes,” added Villarreal.

Alanna Reed, director of communications for the City’s Public Works Department, noted in an email that the department’s director, Carol Haddock, met with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday morning to analyze the report.

Reed detailed that the Public Works Department “currently has a team of 10 multi-family inspectors that conduct inspections in teams of 2 (5 teams), one electrical and one structural expert.”

“These inspectors monitor 4,032 apartment complexes, 26,723 apartment buildings and over 295,000 apartment units throughout 655 square miles,” Reed added in her email.

Heather Way Discusses Apartment Safety Report:

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