Fire Inspections Added To Possible Boarding Home Regulations

Houston councilmembers again delayed a vote on an ordinance to regulate boarding houses and group homes. The delay came after a last-minute amendment was filed to require annual fire inspections.

In the past eleven years, at least two people have died in Houston boarding house fires and nine others were injured.

There are more than 400 unlicensed boarding houses and group homes in the city, where many of Houston's elderly, disabled and mentally ill residents find housing.

Councilmember James Rodriguez says boarding homes should be required to meet certain fire safety measures.

"And it's basically asking to provide fire escapes, exits, markings, fire extinguishers, to have a plan. To make sure that if there are people with disabilities, that there are procedures in place that they're able to be evacuated."

City councilmembers were all set to pass the new boarding home ordinance, which requires such facilities to register with the city, undergo health inspections and allow police officers to enter without  a warrant.

But Rodriguez's amendment came in at the last minute.

Mayor Annise Parker suggested waiting another week to give the council time to review it.

"This was sort of a curveball at the end, but I think we'll quickly in the next week decide if it's going to add any cost to the process and if it's an undue burden. And if it's not, we will accept them all and pass it next week."

City leaders have been working with neighborhood associations and licensed group homes for months to draft new rules to regulate the facilities that are unlicensed.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...