Texas Gov. Rick Perry is No Friend of Tenants or Affordable Housing

Add tenants’ rights and affordable housing to the growing list of issues we should be concerned about regarding right-wing Texas Governor Rick Perry, now a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

It’s not enough that Perry supports cutting programs such as Social Security and Medicare, refuses to consider raising taxes on the rich and corporations, and is against abortion and gay rights. This darling of the extremist Tea Party has a history of opposing tenants’ rights and affordable housing.

To be a tenant in Texas is like playing Texas hold ‘em poker where the faces of your cards are printed on both sides and your opponent, in this case Texas landlords, can always see what cards you are holding.

Texas laws are stacked against tenants, and the judges and legislators are in the pocket of the real-estate industry. Sitting at the head of the table of this imbalance of justice is Governor Rick Perry.

In June, Perry vetoed several low-income housing bills recently passed by the Texas Legislature.

One bill required landlords to give tenants a copy of their lease and prohibited retaliation for tenant organizing. In vetoing this bill that provided tenants some basic rights, Perry focused on the liability it created for non-complying landlords, stating, “The litigation expenses incurred by landlords as a result of this bill could be significant, and would likely be passed on to other tenants through higher rents and fees.”

As a result tenants are left to suffer from retaliation and continue to lack access to written copies of their leases.

Another vetoed bill would have continued the existence of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). The TDHCA administers the state’s low-income housing programs, and has managed its housing recovery programs following Katrina and other Gulf Coast hurricanes. As a result of this veto, Texas entered this year’s hurricane season unprepared for a statewide disaster and without a long-term plan for rebuilding housing and infrastructure.

Gov. Perry also vetoed two bills that allowed individuals charged with crimes to request that their records be cleared, at the prosecutor’s discretion, if prosecutors have dropped the charges. As a result of this veto, innocent Texans will continue to be excluded from rental housing in the state without a way to clear their name.

Two years ago, Perry vetoed a host of other housing-related bills. One would have required that the TDHCA adopt policies to ensure that each housing development that receives financial assistance reserves a certain number of units in the development for individuals and families of very low income and accepts tenants receiving Section 8 rent subsidies.

Another bill would have given the city of Austin a tool to ensure that low- to moderate-income households have the opportunity to live near the city’s new commuter-rail stations, by promoting affordable housing within one mile of those stations.

At the same time Perry has declared war on Texas tenants and affordable housing, it appears that he was the state’s most expensive subsidized tenant.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that Perry had spent almost $600,000 in public money during the previous two years to live in a sprawling rental home in the hills above the capital, according to records the AP obtained. The governor moved into this temporary home in the fall of 2007, leaving the white-columned, two-story governor’s mansion so it could undergo repairs.

It costs more than $10,000 a month in rent, utilities, and upkeep to house Perry in a five-bedroom, seven-bath mansion that has pecan-wood floors, a gourmet kitchen, and three dining rooms. Perry has also spent $130,000 in campaign donations to throw parties, buy food and drink, and pay for cable TV and a host of other services since he moved in, the records show.

It is imperative upon all of us to make sure this is Rick Perry’s last subsidized housing rental. The damage he could do to tenants, let alone the entire country, is beyond comprehension if he was allowed to move into the nation’s most important subsidized housing—that big white one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Let’s make sure that never happens.


Larry Gross is executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival in Los Angeles, blog.cesinaction.org. Reprinted with permission.