Evictions are on the rise across North Texas.
Skyrocketing rent, inflation and rising gas prices are putting the squeeze on family budgets. There's concern it could only get worse.
Adding to the issue, COVID-19 relief money that was helping people with rent during the pandemic is running out. Some programs like Dallas and Fort Worth have stopped accepting new applications so they can use what money they have to help those already in the system.
According to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, this trifecta is causing a spike in eviction filings across the country.
Texas cities are among those in the nation with the highest amount of filings in just the last week. Between Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth, nearly 3,000 evictions have been filed in the past seven days.
The North Texas Eviction Project breaks it down more locally.
There have been more than 86,000 filings since January 2021 across Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Collin counties.
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In the past week, more than 1,100 families have been affected by evictions.
Experts say these numbers are going past pre-pandemic levels and are expected to get worse.
"So during COVID, we had a lot of relief, we had federal assistance, we had the stimulus checks – we had all of that contributing and helping people out with their monthly rental payments,” said Marc Moffitt, a licensed realtor, broker and professor of real estate at the University of North Texas G. Brint Ryan College of Business. “Now that those are gone, the assistance programs are beginning to dwindle. Cost inflation is hitting people in the pocketbook and it's becoming more and more difficult to pay that rent. I think what we're going to see here is, we're going to continue to see evictions climb."
In the DFW area, rent is going up more than it ever has before as more people moving to North Texas demand housing.
"Previously, we predicted double-digit gains in rent price. But it has exceeded our expectations and how we thought the market would react,” said Moffitt.
With low inventory, high home prices and rising interest rates, buying a home is also far from being an option for many renters.
"Renters are in a very difficult situation right now because the two options that they have are to face higher rents or to go out and buy a home," said Moffitt. "And right now the housing market here, at least in the Metroplex, has seen anywhere between 15% to 30% gains in market value. Along with the increase in interest rates, the ability to afford monthly housing payments and then compete in the open market is becoming very challenging."
As a landlord himself, Moffitt said one of the best things tenants can do is communicate with their landlord.
"Most property owners and managers don't want to go to court. They want to try to work things out. They just want to be paid. So if you could stay in communication and you can pay something and keep them apprised of what's going on, generally speaking, that's going to work out better for you."
But that isn't always the case for tenants. That's where local organizations come in to either provide rental and utility assistance or legal help through the eviction process.
There are dedicated groups out there who can help families in need:
- Legal Aid of Northwest Texas is a nonprofit also giving free legal help to low-income residents across the state in 114 Texas counties throughout North and West Texas
- The United Way has rental assistance resources within both the Dallas and Tarrant county offices.
- Assistance Center of Collin County connects families with utility and rent assistance. (Click here for more information depending on which city you live in)
- Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center offers pro bono legal advice and help for area tenants facing eviction.
"This is really pushing a lot of people over the edge. Historically, we've got a significant number of people in Dallas that spend between 50% and 70% of their net income on rent alone,” said Dallas EAC founder and attorney Mark Melton. “That only leaves a small amount for all of the other things that you need to survive and raise a family. So with all of these different prices going up, it is just extending budgets to the breaking point. And people are falling behind as a result.”
Melton has offered more than 2,500 hours of his own pro bono work to help people win their cases.
"We're ready to help as many tenants as we possibly can," Melton said. "Quite frankly, I think some of the needs that really are unaddressed at this point -- is with rising prices, people are really going to need to apply for other government assistance like WIC or SNAP. So a lot of people are confused by that, they don't know how to apply or what the process looks like. Hopefully, we can identify some agencies that are willing to take that on, because there needs to be some pretty massive education on what resources are available through government entitlements and how to apply for them."
"The cost to state and local and federal governments for one homeless person per year is around $40,000 a year, according to HUD. So you can imagine if we're going to spend $40,000 a year -- it's taxpayers to provide medical, jails, shelters, food, all the other interventions that are required to deal with a homeless person at $40,000 a pop," explained Melton. "There are other interventions that we can spend significantly less money to keep people housed where they are. Because what we found during the pandemic was these rent assistance programs worked and they were significantly cheaper than having had to deal with the other side when the interventions are so much more expensive."
Melton says the Dallas Housing Authority is also anticipating getting millions more in new funding for rental assistance, with an application portal that should be opening up soon.
Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center is currently looking for several more lawyers willing to help the cause – especially Spanish-speaking lawyers – as the situation becomes more dire.
Those interested in helping Dallas EAC with pro bono work can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dallaseac.org.