Evictions rise to pre-pandemic levels
COLUMBUS, OH – Worker Mike Friley removes a table during an eviction in the unincorporated community of Galloway west of Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/Getty Images).
Story originally published by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
SPRING, Texas — Dionna Jackson, 40, sat on a long wooden bench nervously scrolling through old text messages on her phone while waiting for her eviction case to be called Monday. More than 87 people joined her in Harris County Judge Lincoln Goodwin’s packed courtroom.
“I’ve found a place for me and my children to stay,” said Jackson, who has three school-aged children. “I just need a few weeks for my income tax [refund] to come in.”
Jackson applied for the Texas Rent Relief Program in October when she first lost her job, but her application has not been processed. She found a new job that pays much less, but because she fell behind two months in rent, the late fees have increased her bill by more than $300 each month.
“I’m having to choose whether to pay rent or feed my children,” Jackson said. “I work 40 plus hours a week. I get paid, I just got paid Friday and all of it went to fix my car and pay for food. I have $27 left in my bank account right now. It’s been rough, but I just need a little more time to catch back up.”
Houston-area landlords filed for more than 5,400 evictions in January, at least 1,000 more than the average for this month pre-pandemic, a spike that housing advocates say will become a national trend as federal and state rental assistance runs out and renter protections expire.
Eviction cases have been on the rise in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, since federal renter protections were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in late August. More recently, filings shot up here after emergency rental assistance programs that have helped tens of thousands of families stay in their homes ran out of money, according to local administrators.
“We don’t have enough money to help everybody,” said Joy Partain, a spokesperson for the nonprofit alliance running Houston’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. “That’s the complete, honest and tragic truth.”
This month, the number of evictions in Texas’ largest city surpassed the monthly historical average for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Houston and surrounding Harris County had more eviction cases the week of Jan. 16 than any of the six states and 31 cities tracked by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, a research center.
Eviction filings in 11 major cities—including Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wis.; Tampa, Fla.; and Houston—significantly increased soon after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium expiration, according to a preliminary analysis published in December by the Eviction Lab.
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