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Tenant Relocation Protections Could Make Their Way to Council

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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
Council Member Pio Renteria is chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee, which will discuss relocation protections tomorrow.

This week, Austin City Council members will reignite a discussion their predecessors started three years ago.

Council will look at the question of whether the city should have a policy to help renters who are forced to move through no fault of their own.

Council Member Pio Renteria took some time to reflect on, what we could call, Old Austin.

“Even 10 years, 15 years ago, people were called slackers and you could live with one job and housing and rental housing was very low and very cheap,” Renteria says.

Now, rents are more expensive and renting requires more planning. Heather Way, a professor at UT-Austin’s School of Law, helped craft a 2012 report to the city with the goal of implementing some permanent protections for residents displaced by redevelopment. The report called on the city to put formal protocols in place, as the city had been previously dealing with tenant assistance on a case-by-case basis:

[T]he City of Austin’s recent relocation policies have been applied on an ad hoc basis. A small number of developers have been required to cover some of the costs of displacing their tenants, while others have not had to pay anything. An ad hoc approach is not only unfair for the tenants who do not receive any assistance but also for the small subset of developers who have been singled out for a benefit requirement.

Way says it’s often harder for displaced residents to tally all the expenses that go into moving – things like first month’s rent, security deposit and moving costs.

“They just don’t have [that] kind of savings on hand to pick up and move,” Way says.

Way wrote a report in 2012 that laid out policies the city could adopt to help those renters displaced – either by a developer buying their building or when their building is damaged beyond repair.

Among the rules Council members will consider tomorrow:

  • Tenants would have to get at least six months’ notice before they need to move out.
  • Renters who can provide proof of low income will get a stipend for relocation and moving from the developer.
  • Security deposits would have to be given back on the move-out date.

Council passed a resolution to work with stakeholders to develop a displaced tenant policy in November of 2012 and the item made its way through committees in 2013 before, as Way puts it, it was lost in the shuffle after the 10-1 council took over the dais.
“This is just something that slipped through the cracks,” she says.

Council members will discuss displaced tenant policies at the Housing and Community Development Committee’s meeting tomorrow.

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