Pro Bono News
These Tenants Got Vouchers to Leave Their Harvey-Damaged Apartments. They Still Fear They'll End Up on the Streets. (TX)
Friday, August 02, 2019
- Houston Chronicle
These Tenants Got Vouchers to Leave Their Harvey-Damaged Apartments. They Still Fear They'll End Up on the Streets.
"Tanisia Coachman can’t afford to keep looking for a new home.
She has three kids to feed, not to mention herself. She works during the day. Replacing a car that was flooded out twice sucked up hundreds of dollars — but she needs the car to get to work. And it feels as if every time she finds an apartment that might work, pays her application fee and puts down a deposit, she gets rejected — losing money she couldn’t spare.
Coachman, 36, is one of 108 tenants with federal rent vouchers intended to get them out of the Arbor Court apartment complex in Houston’s Greenspoint neighborhood. Arbor Court, a privately owned building under contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, flooded multiple times in the last several years, most severely during Hurricane Harvey nearly two years ago.
“What are you supposed to do?” asked Coachman, who still lives at Arbor Court while struggling to find a new place. “You’re pretty much stuck.”
Lone Star Legal Aid sued HUD in July 2018, alleging the Arbor Court families were put into apartments that were flood-prone, high-crime and unsafe. Tenants now have the option of moving into Cullen Park, the owner’s other property, or, like Coachman, getting a housing choice voucher through the Harris County Housing Authority that will theoretically enable them to find a new place to live.
By the end of July, said Harris County Housing Authority director Horace Allison, 25 of the tenants found homes. Another 36 submitted their paperwork and were awaiting inspections.
“Those families who have followed the instructions have been assisted,” Allison said.
In Texas, landlords aren’t required to accept housing vouchers, severely limiting tenants’ options. The vouchers expire after 90 days, although voucher holders can apply for an extension. The vouchers don’t cover the costs of moving: Application fees, deposits and the actual move itself. And sometimes the vouchers aren’t enough to get tenants into a location that’s markedly better than the one they’re leaving..."