Friday, March 26, 2021

Tenants’ Rights at the Forefront of Approved Resolution to Address Health and Safety Violations Resulting from Winter Storm Uri

Tenants' Rights at the Forefront of Approved Resolution to Address Health and
Safety Violations Resulting from Winter Storm Uri

The City of Austin took steps on Thursday, March 25 to address the lack of rights for tenants, which were highlighted during Winter Storm Uri. In passing Agenda Item 112, City Council calls to develop tools and resources to address health and safety violations from the winter freeze and support tenant assistance.
"Tenants' rights have long been a concern in our community," says Councilwoman Vanessa Fuentes, who brought forth the resolution. "I can tell you firsthand, it was troubling to see the damage done by the storm to some of the apartments in my district. Recognizing the lack of resources to offer them adequate help during such a great time of need was even worse."
Broken pipes and water outages were major concerns in multi-family units last month. This resolution offers protections for those immediate needs and works to address the greater demands to support renters.
The City Manager is directed to seek the rapid repair of health and safety violations that are persisting over a month since the end of the winter storm, specifically where residents report that they are enduring unsafe and noncompliant conditions in their homes.
This includes accelerated timeframes for initial compliance from landlords and escalates violations when compliance is not achieved during the initial phase, as well as offers relocation services when necessary.
To support this, the resolution expands the 3-1-1 hotline and makes available more multilingual dispatchers. It increases funding for community-based legal services and tenants' rights clinics. And it directs additional funding for rent relief, repairs and utility bill relief through funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
"Housing is a human right," says Councilwoman Fuentes. "In passing this resolution, we are telling tenants that their rights matter just as much as everyone else who calls Austin home. Thank you to my co-sponsors in their initiative to better protect tenants."
Co-sponsors include: Council Members Greg Casar, Sabino Pio Renteria, Alison Alter, and Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison.

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