Harris County leaders working to solve 'massive problem' after thousands of evictions within 1 month

ByDerrick Lewis KTRK logo
Thursday, September 29, 2022
Harris Co. filed thousands of evictions within 1 month, data shows
For a couple of years now, Harris county has seen thousands of evictions filed every month. One expert says there might be a reason for this.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County leaders are calling the number of evictions happening in the area a massive problem.

According to data science firm January Advisors, landlords have filed nearly 60,000 evictions just in 2022.

Harris County commissioner Rodney Ellis said this is because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing economy. For a couple of years now, the county has seen thousands of evictions filed every month.

Since March 2020, the start of the COVID pandemic, data shows landlords have filed more than 117,000 evictions in Harris County.

Ellis explains what's causing "a growing crisis."

"The pandemic is part of the reason why we've had so many evictions," he said. "Also, because of the lack of legal representation for tenants."

On Tuesday, commissioners set aside $4 million for legal services to help Harris County renters facing eviction.

As of Sept. 26, the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program has used more than $300 million to help families struggling during the pandemic.

While the money has made a difference for tens of thousands of families, Commissioner Ellis said the growing crisis will not change until more people can afford their rent.

"When we do more to try to get a handle on affordable housing, so many people simply cannot afford the cost of housing," Ellis said.

That is having a ripple effect on landlords.

"Landlords need to get paid rent," Howard Bookstaff said.

Bookstaff is a part of a group made up of landlords and real estate managers, the Houston Apartment Association.

He said some people have not been able to catch up on rent since the pandemic.

"What was before, one or two months, pre-pandemic that warranted enough is enough, we're going to go forward with the eviction. Now, we're seeing five to 10 months and even more in delinquencies," he said.

"It's a challenge on all sides," Ellis said. "The pandemic is part of it, the fact that we have so much poverty and so many inequities in Harris County."

Bookstaff said most landlords make evictions the last resort, and gives advice to tenants.

"Communicate with your landlord," he said. "Always communicate where you are, what your circumstances are, show an effort that you are going to make your rent payments."