Tenants to get rent reimbursement for Harvey flooded units

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston officials are trying to determine how many public housing residents were wrongly told to pay rent this month for homes left uninhabitable by Hurricane Harvey.

Some residents at the Houston Housing Authority's Clayton Homes complex were told they'd lose their units if they didn't pay, the Houston Chronicle reported . The complex is one of the city's few subsidized housing developments.

"I completely didn't understand," said LaShondra Ford, who paid $50 for rent earlier this month. "I tried to research and Google, and I was watching the news to see, is there something that can be done so I can get my money?"

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying for Ford's family to temporarily stay at a hotel in Conroe.

Houston Housing Authority President Tory Gunsolley initially said federal rules didn't allow the agency to waive rent, even in a disaster. But U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesman Scott Hudman later said tenants don't have to pay for uninhabitable units.

The Clayton Homes complex had the most extensive damage of the city agency's four flooded public housing properties.

Gunsolley's office is working to determine how many of its more than 180 displaced tenants paid rent for flooded units. He said those who did would be reimbursed, though it's unclear how long the reimbursements may take.

"The immediate safety and health needs of the residents are the most urgent right now as the recovery process is in motion and will be for a long time," said Sunita Dharani, spokeswoman for the housing authority.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had previously urged private landlords to waive or delay rent late fees for tenants of flooded units. He also warned landlords against collecting rent and forcing tenants out.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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