The 88th Texas Legislature was a consequential one for low-income housing. Lawmakers faced an unprecedented crisis of housing unaffordability and instability going into the session, but were also equipped with new knowledge, experience, and tools to address these issues coming out of the pandemic.
Now that the regular session is over, we can assess how our state leaders did. Despite the extreme and ongoing eviction crisis in the state, conservative lawmakers allowed eviction protections to be swept up in their ongoing war on cities. By introducing the concept of field preemption and including local eviction protections in the range of preempted activities, state lawmakers have snatched away the most important tools that local leaders had to address evictions and renter stability.
Similarly, the legislature failed to allocate a single dollar of the historic $32 billion budget surplus to helping renters to stay housed. Low-income renters feel the weight of housing unaffordability and instability the most out of anyone, but instead lawmakers are stuck debating whether to spend billions of dollars to help homeowners (who are overall wealthier and whiter than renters) or property owners more generously. Either way the impact on renters will be negligible and ultimately a waste of a golden opportunity.
But the 88th session did have some silver linings. The state did allocate funds to produce affordable housing with the new state housing tax credit. HOAs are now banned from blanket discrimination against voucher holders. And community leaders and advocates were a powerful force at the Capitol, advancing legislation that few thought possible.
Today we present Texas Housers’ round up of the 88th legislative session. This report explores major themes coming out of the session for low-income housing and outlines what you should know about the bills that passed as well as a few notable bills that did not. This is the new landscape. Now let’s get to work.