Houston renters still waiting on rent relief 1 month after federal eviction ban went into effect

Thursday, October 8, 2020
Houston renters still waiting on rent relief
EMBED <>More Videos

One month after the federal eviction ban, thousands of Houston renters said they're still waiting on renter's aid.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's been just over one month since the CDC's eviction memorandum went into effect, putting most evictions on hold until January. Harris County Precinct One Constable Alan Rosen said renter's relief is on the way to help the many people who are still struggling.

According to the CDC, in order for renters to qualify for its federal memorandum, tenants have to meet the criteria and must fill out and sign the declaration form.

John Boriack, President-elect of the Houston Apartment Association, said it's important for renters to have the conversation with their landlords, make sure they meet the qualifications and have an agreement in place.

"Know that rent is still due and rent will come on Jan. 1, if it's not paid before then," Boriack said. "So, don't let yourself get buried in a hole that you are not going to be able to get out of. It's really important to stay on top of your rent and make those payments and not think that this is going to go away for some reason, because it's just not."

According to eviction lab online tracker, filings in Houston have decreased by nearly 60% since the federal ban was put in place in September.

Jon-Ross Trevino with Lone Star Legal Aid said while he has seen a decrease in evictions, there are still some cases where renters are getting evicted. He said it's important for people to know their rights and what relief aid is available on both the federal, state and local level.

"Texas is doing an eviction diversion program, there's a whole bunch of rental assistance that is there and designed to help tenants and landlords," Trevino said. "This whole process is designed to help everybody. Be proactive, get help, know your rights and don't rely on what your landlord or what other people are telling you. Go get legal counsel."

Trevino said those who apply and qualify can get free legal help from Lone Star Legal Aid.

Judy Phillips first told her story on ABC13 when the eviction ban went into effect in September, and she received help from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Phillips said while still on disability and out of a job, she doesn't think she'll have the money when the statement comes on Jan. 1.

RELATED: Houston woman's story brings hope for others facing evictions

"Once it piles up into the thousands, I don't receive that type of money to pay it," she said.

Lee told ABC13 that she is still working to help Phillips find new affordable housing.

"Many people are still suffering by facing evictions. The CDC requirements don't relieve the financial burden on the renters. So, my goal is to encourage landlord's cooperation, to work with private good Samaritans and to pass the Heroes Act with specific cash disbursements and eviction prohibition federal funding," Lee said.

After Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's office made national headlines about an eviction story, the office started a GoFundMe to help the people who were getting evicted.

SEE MORE: Evicted dad from viral video near tears, but for a different reason

This is an addition, you know? People are suffering," Rosen said. "This is the time in which, unfortunately, this has started the conversation of poverty in our country, which was long overdue, and some of the things of people suffering out there. Everyone is suffering. This an opportunity that where, we in law enforcement have the unfortunate job of evicting people, are also trying to be part of the solution and helping people, landlords and tenants."

He said his office, along with several organizations including BakerRipley, will be setting up an eviction assistance program and will be setting up a mobile site in the areas with the highest number of evictions to help people get legal counsel, rent relief-aid and other resources needed. The first mobile command post will be at 1215 Pinemont Drive from 9 a.m. to - 1 p.m. on Oct. 14.

The city of Houston is also announcing 13,681 tenant applications were selected for rental assistance through its funding. At least $8.6 million has already been paid to landlords on behalf of tenants. Applications will continue to be processed through Oct. 30, and Houston renters can still apply.

The Houston Housing Authority said Houston has a housing crisis and it has only been amplified during the pandemic. As federal stimulus talks are halted, the housing authority anticipates more people will need affordable housing. Currently more than 91,000 people remain on the waiting list for public housing.

The Houston Housing Authority sent the following statement to ABC13:

In the midst of a global pandemic, housing is more than shelter, it is a matter of public health. The health and safety of residents will remain HHA's top priority. HHA has and will continue to put forth dedicated efforts to support those we serve in this challenging time.

HHA is mindful of the unique economic and safety challenges residents are facing during this time. As such, we have not issued any evictions at HHA-owned properties since the pandemic for non-payment of rent and we working directly with residents financially impacted by COVID-19.

Prior to COVID-19, our country was facing a severe affordable housing crisis. In Houston, we rank as fifth in the nation for having the most severe affordable housing shortage with only 19 affordable housing units for every 100 low-income renter households in need. It's critical to not only protect families who live in affordable and public housing, but also look to solutions to expand affordable housing nationwide.

Follow Roxie Bustamante on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram