Well, it’s that time again. The 88th Texas Legislature began on Monday, January 10th. We at Texas Housers have been preparing for the session throughout the fall, monitoring housing bills that will positively or negatively affect the lives of millions renters and low-income communities in our state. We have divided our priorities this session into two categories: tenants’ rights and adding more and better affordable housing. You can check out our full priorities list here.
It’s no secret that Texas is an unfriendly state to tenants. Low-income tenants have faced significant challenges finding affordable, safe, decent housing free from discrimination. Our leaders often appear to not care about their plight from their actions or lack thereof. During the pandemic, housing stability for low-income people, a longtime crisis, became unmistakably visible for the first time to many leaders in the state and the public. Historic levels of funding and protections were put in place to keep low-income people from being evicted. Now that those protections have mostly ended, we are observing our state leaders this session to see if their new insight into the crisis facing low-income renters will translate into meaningful action.
We are tracking all bills related to low-income housing and renter rights on our Texas Legislature 2023 page. Follow the links there to learn more about bills you care about. You can also listen to members of our staff describe our work at the capitol on our latest episode of A Little Louder, which can be found here.
This spring, our state leaders at the Capitol have the opportunity to:
- Prevent evictions
- Move the needle on tenants’ rights
- Protect voucher holders from discrimination
- Dedicate significant surplus funding to the production of deeply affordable housing
- Ensure that we get truly affordable housing in exchange for developer tax breaks
- Guide low-income housing production toward neighborhoods that will provide choice and opportunity for low-income residents
For instance, two representatives (Gene Wu with HB 511 and Nicole Collier with HB 1450) have filed bills that would seal eviction records for tenants under certain circumstances, avoiding unnecessary red flags on future rental applications. Rep. Collier has also filed HB 673, which would give tenants seven days to pay back rent before their landlord can file a formal eviction. Rep. Jon Rosenthal has filed HB 1148, which would reestablish the ability for local governments to protect voucher holders from discrimination. And over in the Senate, Sen. Sarah Eckhardt has filed SB 199, which would require Public Facility Corporations to accept vouchers, one step toward fixing a deeply troubled program that is supposed to be producing low-income housing but isn’t. We’re already tracking over 60 bills and more are being filed every day.
If you’d like to get involved, there are plenty of ways to join in the legislative process. Texas Tenants For Change’s are demanding a fair shake for tenants in the state, and you can add your voice to their effort here. The North Texas Fair Housing Center is circulating a renters’ rights petition that immediately sends a letter to your state representatives at the Capitol.
You can keep up with what’s happening at the legislature through updates in our newsletter (subscribe at the bottom of this page), watching this blog, or listening to our A Little Louder podcast with future episodes dealing directly with the 88th Session throughout the spring. And finally, if you have any further questions, you can reach out to our research director Ben Martin at email@example.com.
Let’s make change at the capitol for all Texans!