Houstonians face eviction fears as cost of living skyrockets: 'It's just hard'

Courtney Carpenter Image
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Houstonians face eviction fears as cost of living skyrockets
So far, in 2023, more than 300 eviction cases have been filed in Harris County. As the cost of living rises, families are searching for new homes.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- So far this year, on average, there are 330 eviction cases filed each day in Harris County. Families are being forced to find another place to live while the cost of rent continues to rise.

"I have a 19-year-old and a 6-year-old, and I've got to go home and tell them we have to move again. It's just hard," Jonathon Neal explained.

Neal showed up to eviction court hoping for some leniency, but with about $2,400 owed to his landlord, unless he comes up with the money, he has to move out within two weeks.

"I've got a good-paying job. I'm not hurt on that part. It's just, it's only enough to pay for one thing or another. If you don't have enough money to pay rent or you don't have enough money to eat, it's one or the other. It's hard out here," Neal explained.

Neal is far from being the only one struggling. According to January advisors, a local data company that tracks evictions, already this year, there have been more than 10,000 eviction cases in Harris County. There were 7,428 in January and 3,455 so far this month.

"For our client base, and we are talking about people who are within 200 and 300% of federal poverty levels, rents are exorbitantly high and growing," Dana Karni, eviction right to council litigation director at Lone Star Legal Aid, explained.

Rent is up 8.6% nationwide from January 2022 to January 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While data shows some costs are cooling, rent is not.

Dietrich von Biedenfeld, a professor of business law and supply chain management at the University of Houston-Downtown, explains part of the reason why.

"When you think about the cost of borrowing, when you think about the challenges of borrowing, the reality is that we've got people who are forced to remain renters, and landlords are able to capitalize on that, but also they themselves may be forced to charge higher rents to cover their borrowing costs," von Biedenfeld said.

Karni says if you find yourself in the tough spot of facing eviction, make sure to show up to court and find out what your rights are.

"I would encourage them to get information and legal advice and know they don't have to move, not even if a judgment is issued against them. Not until they've gotten legal advice... Certainly, if they see us in the courthouse, they need to not be shy. If they see a legal aid lawyer, they need to approach us and ask for help. If we can help them, we will," Karni said.

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