- Supports low-income tenants displaced by redevelopment of apartments and mobile home parks by providing advanced notice of the displacement, relocation counseling, and financial assistance
- Ordinances vary in structure, including what triggers the notice and fee, who is required to pay the relocation fee, and who is eligible for the assistance.
- Must be carefully drafted to navigate Texas’s restrictions on linkage fees
Action Steps to Get Started
- Draft a tenant relocation assistance ordinance and solicit public input, including from tenants.
- Decide whether the city or a third party will administer the program, including the relocation assistance counseling, delivery of financial assistance to tenants, and outreach and education to landlords and tenants.
- If rental property owners displacing tenants are required to pay a relocation fee, undertake a nexus study to determine the appropriate fee.
The loss of an affordable apartment can trigger a wave of destabilizing effects on low-income tenants. Displaced tenants must navigate increasingly limited affordable rental housing options in their neighborhoods, as well as cover the costs of relocating, which can exceed $2,500. Low-income tenants with mobility impairments, limited education, or limited English proficiency face additional challenges in securing new housing. Tenants with criminal records or credit issues face additional challenges in securing replacement housing. The closure of a mobile home park can have even greater destabilizing impacts, given the high cost of moving a mobile home– which can range from $4,000 to $10,000–and the difficulties mobile home residents face in securing a new rental pad as the supply of mobile home parks in cities diminishes.
Displacement can impact the long-term wellbeing of tenants and their families, from loss of important social networks to children forced to transfer to schools and reduced school performance. For the most vulnerable tenants, displacement can even lead to homelessness.
The Tool: Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance
Tenant relocation assistance ordinances buffer some of the hardships associated with tenant displacement in several ways. Key features of a comprehensive ordinance include the following:
Advanced notice: An advanced notice provision requires landlords to provide advanced notice to the tenants and potentially other stakeholders (such as the city and school district) before taking certain actions that will lead to the displacement of most or all tenants at a property. Advanced notice requirements give tenants more time to secure new rental housing or move their mobile home. Requiring notice to the school district provides the district with the opportunity to mediate the impacts on neighborhood schools serving the property.
The typical length of notice required by relocation ordinances around the country varies from 60 to 180 days for tenants in apartment complexes, and 90 days to a year for residents in a mobile home park. Austin’s ordinance has a 180-day notice requirement for apartments, which is triggered by a permit application for a demolition (including partial demolitions) or commercial building application. Austin’s notice requirement for mobile homes parks is 270 days, which is triggered by a site plan, change of use permit, or rezoning application.
Financial assistance: Another key feature of tenant relocation assistance ordinances is the provision of financial assistance to the tenants to cover the cost of relocating to a new apartment. Most cities with relocation ordinances require developers to pay a fee to the city to cover the financial assistance to renters who are displaced. However, some cities pay the relocation fees out of general revenue.
The amount of assistance required by city ordinances varies across the country, with a typical range of $500 to $2,000 for apartment displacements. A 2012 UT Law study of tenant displacement from an apartment complex in Austin found that the typical cost for a tenant to relocate to a $500 a month apartment was at least $1,500 and included costs such as application fees ($30-$50 per adult per application); moving truck rental and boxes; utility transfer costs; payment of a new security deposit, which is due before tenants receive a refund of their current security deposit; and first month’s rent for the new apartment, which also must be advanced.
The relocation assistance for mobile home park residents is much higher. Mobile home park displacement fees typically cover the actual cost of moving the mobile home, with the typical maximum cap ranging from $5,000 to $8,000 for a single-wide and $7,000 to $12,000 for double-wide.
Relocation counseling: Relocation counseling is essential to helping tenants navigate tight rental markets, negotiate with new landlords, and access housing in their neighborhood and school attendance zone if they want to remain in their community. The University of Texas School of Law study on tenant displacement found that the relocation counseling provided by an experienced realtor following the closure of an Austin apartment complex was critical in helping tenants successfully relocate and, for some tenants, was more important than the financial assistance they received. The cost of relocation counseling can be covered by the city or out of a fee charged to the property owner.
Triggers for Displacement Assistance
Before adopting an ordinance, a city needs to determine what types of displacement actions require advanced notice, as well as whether and when a property owner will be required to pay a relocation fee to cover part or all of the costs of the relocation assistance. Triggers for notice or financial assistance can include:
• Demolition permits
• Zoning changes
• Site plan permit and change of use applications
• Increases in rent over a certain amount
• Lease non-renewals without cause or substantial changes in lease terms
Navigating Texas’s Linkage Fee Ban
Under Section 250.008 of the Local Government Code, a fee cannot be imposed on new construction (which includes zoning changes, building permits, and site plans) unless (1) the fee is not used to offset the cost or rent of the new housing unit or (2) the fee is a “fee in lieu” via a density bonus program. A broad fee could still be tied to a demolition permit, which is not barred under 250.008. Alternatively, a narrower fee could be adopted to cover things like moving costs (such as a moving truck rental or mobile home relocation) and intensive relocation counseling, which are not restricted at all by 250.008. As an additional option, a broad fee could be triggered as part of an optional fee in lieu for developers receiving an increase in height and square footage. A city could require developers receiving these increases in entitlements to provide for the moving truck, counselor, and other relocation services or have the option of paying a fee instead.
Portland’s Mandatory Renter Relocation Assistance ordinance requires landlords to pay a tenant relocation fee of $2,900 to $4,500 depending on the size of the rental unit, which is triggered by non-renewal of leases due to redevelopment, as well as increases in rent by 10% or more over a 12-month period and other actions that displace tenants. A similar type of ordinance in Texas would not be restricted under Section 250.008.
- Austin: Notice requirement for 180 days for apartments and 270 days for mobile home parks, with different triggers. Austin’s ordinance also requires the housing department to set up a relocation program and fund to cover low-income tenant’s relocation expenses when they are displaced by multi-family redevelopment and mobile home conversions. The city ordinance includes a city-funded component and a landlord-funded component; the landlord fee is still under development.
- San Antonio: In 2019, the San Antonio City Council dedicated $1 million in funding towards a pilot Risk Mitigation program that includes a Resident Relocation Assistance Program (RRAP) and Emergency Assistance for Housing Stabilization program (EAHS). RRAP provides housing counseling services and financial assistance for relocation and moving expenses for families who are displaced from their housing. EAHS provides financial and counseling assistance to help renters and homeowners experiencing a financial emergency stay in their homes. The program is funded entirely by the city and does not include any advanced notice requirements.
The City of Austin has collected information on other mobile home relocation assistance laws from around the country. Ordinances addressing displacement from apartments include: Chicago (Condominium Conversion Ordinance), Seattle (Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance), Portland (Mandatory Renter Relocation Assistance Ordinance), and Palo Alto (Rental Housing Stabilization Ordinance).
Tenant Displacement in Austin (Texas Law Community Development Clinic, 2012)