CDC ending eviction moratorium is 'ticking time bomb' for Houston renters, researchers say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Officials fear data from a new report may indicate a "ticking time bomb" could go off in weeks if an eviction moratorium ends.

A new study issued by the Kinder Institute at Rice University shows more than rental relief is needed to fix Houston's rent crisis.

The report found one in eight renters in the Houston area received an eviction notice during the pandemic. It also found more people are living together, which wasn't ideal during a global pandemic requiring social distancing.

"Those people crowding together, that was not good for COVID," said Bill Fulton, the director for the Kinder Institute. "That led to greater transmission of COVID. Overcrowding was clearly a factor in the fact that Harris County had an enormous number of COVID cases."

He also believes different complexes should be built.

"Encourage developers to go deeper into the market," said Fulton. "Build not only to the 10 or 20%, but build for the top 40 or 50%."

Officials also said it's important for money to flow straight from the government to renters. The state said it's distributed nearly $500 million. Houston and Harris County has spent more than $115 million.

A rent relief program for those living in the city or the county has already helped hundreds, but it may not continue for long.

READ MORE: Houston rent relief: Millions are still available, but the help won't last long

The program only has about $25 million remaining and officials believe it could run out by the end of next month.

"I was terrified," said Robin Millard, who was recently served an eviction notice. "I thought we had no hope. I thought for sure we were definitely going to be evicted."

Millard has since received help thanks to the rent relief program.

"I was approved on a Thursday and my court date was on Monday," he said. "I feel blessed because this was so huge. It wasn't just the back payment, to be able to get ahead and know that stability is lasting is more than I can say."

The Biden administration extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month to help tenants who are unable to make rent payments during the coronavirus pandemic, but it said this is expected to be the last time it does so.

READ MORE: Biden administration extends eviction moratorium for 30 days

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended the evictions moratorium until July 31. It had been scheduled to end June 30. The CDC said Thursday that "this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium."

For the latest updates on the national and local rent relief effort, follow ABC13 reporter Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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