Evicted families increasing, face numerous challenges
FOX 26 Consumer Reporter Heather Sullivan has more as the number of evicted families climb past pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
Houston – Evictions are surpassing pre-pandemic levels in the Houston area, as COVID-era rent relief programs are running out.
With rising rents and evictions on their records, many of these renters face a tough future.
Since the CDC moratorium on evictions ended last August, the Princeton University Eviction Lab shows eviction filings in Houston have surpassed pre-pandemic levels. They were up 80% from the historic average in March 2022, and up 47% in May 2022.
Ashley Humphrey and her family have had a tough run.
“I put a smile on my face with the kids around me. I don’t let them see me crying and things like that. I don’t like being in this situation. I don’t feel like it’s a fair situation,” said Humphrey through her tears.
She says they fell behind on rent after paying for repairs, she caught COVID-19 and couldn’t work, and her father passed away. Humphrey says they received rental assistance from Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries, and applied for the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program. But they were ultimately evicted.
“It’s upsetting. I haven’t even had the time to grieve my dad because it’s just been like everything back-to-back, back-to-back, back-to-back,” she told us.
As Houston area rents are up 14.7%, according to ApartmentData, like many renters, the Humphreys are struggling to find affordable housing.
A Texas Appleseed report finds evicted tenants are hampered long-term with evictions on their records.
“How long do we really think that one eviction keeps someone from getting an apartment? Should it be this sort of stained record that keeps them from being housed?” asks Brett Merefish with advocacy group, Texas Appleseed.
Merefish points out that sometimes evictions result from circumstances beyond the renter’s control.
“Maybe they face eviction because of domestic violence issues. Maybe they did fall behind on their rent, but there also can be a retaliation for asking for repairs,” said Merefish.
We reached out to BakerRipley to see if there are resources that can help the Humphreys and the organization is working to help them with rehousing.
Meanwhile, Humphrey holds on to hope.
“I can see why things happen, people just lose it. I pray, and I pray every day. That’s the only reason I still have my sanity,” Humphrey said.
The Texas Supreme Court extended an emergency order to July 1 that lets judges delay cases 60 days if a tenant or landlord has applied for rent relief and both parties express interest in participating.
We asked the judge in Humphrey’s case why her application didn’t pause her eviction, and we’re waiting to hear back.
According to the Texas Rent Relief website, TRR stopped taking applications last fall and committed 99% of its funding in January.
On March 14, the U.S. Treasury announced TRR would receive an additional $47.8 million. TRR is reviewing applications already on file and prioritizing those with eviction proceedings underway.
As for the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance program, of the $310 million allotted, $285 million has helped 72,000 households stay in their homes.
With limited funds left, it is only taking applications from renters who have been sued for eviction. The website says previous applicants now being sued for eviction must reapply.
Some charities and municipalities have their own rent relief programs. Call the United Way helpline at 211 to learn more.
Tenants can still get free legal help through the Eviction Defense Coalition. And the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is sending $20 million in grants to programs that offer legal aid to tenants facing eviction.