Many Texans who rent their homes and live paycheck-to-paycheck are worried about being evicted. The coronavirus pandemic is highlighting the state of the practice in Texas.
The Trump administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are suspending foreclosures and evictions on FHA-insured mortgages until the end of April. Trump made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday.
The movement against evicting people has been gaining steam, especially amid calls to close most non-essential businesses.
All 16 Harris County justices of the peace are suspending evictions through the end of March and possibly longer, Judge Lina Hidalgo announced. The Houston Housing Authority has placed a “moratorium on all evictions related to nonpayment of rent and minor lease violations.” However, evictions that were already matriculating through the court system will still be allowed to go on as planned.
Travis County and Bexar County have put holds on eviction filings as well. Bexar County’s postponement will run through April 16. In 2019, more than 21,000 eviction lawsuits were filed there.
In Dallas, several city council members have said they want to consider eviction protections.
Even in normal times, eviction is hard to study in Texas due to a lack of data. But we know that more than 60,000 people in Harris County alone faced eviction last year. Dallas was tied with Indianapolis for the fourth highest rate of evictions in the country, according to a 2017 Apartment List report.
Many evicted Americans owed less than $600 to their landlords, according to a New York Times article. A history of eviction can make finding a new place to rent hard.
The pause in eviction proceedings is a welcome respite for temporarily insolvent workers, but it’s likely to be only a stopgap measure.
Most experts agree that the United States is heading into a major recession. The economic impact of that recession is sure to be felt hard in Texas as oil prices have plummeted to the lowest they have been in 18 years. The federal government has already promised a stimulus package, including direct payment checks to adult Americans by the end of April. The total cost of the stimulus package is estimated to be $1 trillion.
As of right now, counties in Texas remain under social distancing protocols with some business closures.
Nonetheless, some businesses are closed, and restaurants are advised to only allow takeout orders. The long-term financial effects of the outbreak will be felt far past the cutoff for eviction proceedings as Texans struggle to make ends meet in the face of a pandemic and economic freefall.