Texas Cities Lead Nation in Evictions after Unspent Relief was Confiscated

Eviction notice letter | Image by Vyacheslav Dumchev

Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth are topping the rankings for the highest number of evictions in the nation, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab.

With 2,193 evictions, the number of evictions in Houston makes up more than 21% of all of  Eviction Lab’s data for the most recently posted week of February 13 – 19. Statistics show Fort Worth had 1,007 evictions, and Dallas had 999. Out of the thirty-one cities on Eviction Lab’s radar, all three of the aforementioned were in the top five.

However, the U.S. Treasury Department stated that they recently re-acquired the remainder of the $1.9 million that was given to the Texas Rent Relief Program for rent assistance. The program had approved $1.2 billion of the funds to help over 223,000 households, per KERA News.

According to a press release, the program had about $680 million left to disburse. Since the money was not being utilized quickly enough, it was seized to be redistributed throughout the country, according to the Texas Tribune.

Originally intended for the counties of Jefferson, Brazoria, Hays, El Paso, Nueces, and the city of Laredo, The Tribune stated that the money would be given to other counties, likely outside of Texas, that would spend the money more expediently.

Though many Texas counties had funds leftover, others exhausted their allotted rental assistance money. The Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) utilized all of its funds.

According to figures reported in September 2021, Texas’ rent relief program at the time was outperforming nearly every other state, and had been more effective in distributing its funds.

In early November of 2021, news surfaced that the Texas Rent Relief Program was running out of money, despite over 50,000 pandemic-era evictions in Houston. After $1.2 billion was distributed through the program, the website later closed to any new applicants, citing overwhelming demand.

Now, as eviction levels skyrocket once again, federal aid is running short. Eviction bans have come to a close, and the Harris and Houston County rent funds are very limited. Only people with active eviction cases are eligible to receive assistance, per the Houston-Harris Emergency Rental Assistance Program website.

Dana Karni, an attorney for Lone Star Legal Aid, says that the loss of federal and state rental assistance is forcing landlords to evict renters. “They really have the choice of having to decide whether they want to become charitable and let someone stay there for free or a significantly reduced rent or evict them so they could bring in a new tenant,” says Karni. She adds that the rental assistance gave landlords hope that the “void would be filled.”

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