Housing Stability Task Force Members Represent Service Providers, Property Owners, Tenants and Advocates

By: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo
| Published 06/24/2020


HARRIS COUNTY, TX - Harris County and City of Houston recovery czars Rep. Armando Walle and Marvin Odum on Wednesday announced the names of the members of a joint task force designed to bridge gaps in housing stability. The 24 community members, who bring deep experience at every point of the housing stability cycle, will provide recommendations to help structure the city and county’s response to the housing crisis, particularly among low-income people and communities of color, brought about by the COVID pandemic and downturn in the energy industry.

Judge Jeremy Brown and Ric Campo to Co-Chair City-County Effort to Tackle Evictions, Maintain Stable, Safe and Affordable Housing

On Tuesday, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University issued its inaugural State of Housing in Harris County and Houston report, which outlined massive challenges to the region’s housing sector. Among the highlights:

• Renters are hardest hit by the region’s decrease in affordable housing
• Nearly half of renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing
• The number of “cost-burdened” renter households increased by 24 percent between 2010 to 2018

“The affordability once associated with the Houston region was disappearing even before we began to grapple with the one-two punch of economic and public health crises,” said Bill Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute. “The issue of evictions does not exist in a vacuum. Evictions have a cascade effect that extends beyond the housing system, affecting the health and future of our community. That’s why it’s critical to have all interests represented where decisions are being made, and I commend the city and county for bringing these key stakeholders together.”

The Housing Stability Task Force, which will be co-chaired by Harris County Justice of the Peace Jeremy Brown and civic leader Ric Campo of Camden Property Trust, consists of the following additional members:

• John Boriak, Veritas Equity Management
• Mark Thiele, Houston Housing Authority
• Maria Verdeja, Harris County Community Services Department
• Dana Karni, Lone Star Legal Aid
• Tom McCasland, Houston Housing and Community Development Dept
• Courtney Johnson Rose, George E. Johnson Properties
• Zoe Middleton, Texas Housers
• Chrishelle Palay, HOME Coalition
• Claudia Aguirre, Baker Ripley
• Alan Watkins Wells Fargo
• Celesté Arredondo-Peterson, Texas Organizing Project
• Marcia Johnson, Thurgood Marshall School of Law
• Mary Lawler, Avenue CDC
• Guadalupe Fernandez, Tahirih Justice Center
• Lori Pampilo Harris, Houston Housing Collaborative
• Jay Malone, Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation
• Jeff Reichman, January Advisors
• Diana Zarzuelo, Greater Houston Community Foundation
• Cynthia N. Colbert, Catholic Charities
• Margaret Oser, United Way
• Ana Rausch, Coalition for the Homeless
• Howard Bookstaff, Hoover Slovacek

The Task Force will be convened and supported by LISC Houston. The COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by a downturn in the energy industry, has intensified the rental housing crisis while also significantly impacting property owners, who face increased economic pressures due to the vast numbers of renters who have suffered loss of employment and income.

The task force will address three pressing needs:

• Prevent evictions
• Mitigate impacts on tenants and landlords
• Stabilize households for the benefit of public health

“An eviction can have wide-ranging, long-term financial and psychological consequences, and the problem is much greater than we realize in Harris County,” said Housing Stability Task Force member Jeff Reichman, whose firm, January Advisors, released a neighborhood-level evictions dashboard on Tuesday. “Judge Brown brought needed attention to this issue by prioritizing eviction diversion in his own courtroom, and city and county leaders have used their respective bully pulpits to extend relief and delay proceedings. We have the data - the next logical step is bringing together key stakeholders to shape meaningful policy recommendations.”

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