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'We Don't Have Much, but This Is Our Home'

Kristian Hernández, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

In Texas, about 80% of the 455,000 households who are behind on rent have low incomes or are made up of people of color. The share of renters behind on rent in Texas is 13%, about the same as the national rate, according to the National Equity Atlas, a data and policy tool maintained by the University of Southern California Equity Research Institute and the research firm PolicyLink.

Before the pandemic, the share of renters in debt was about 7% in Texas and nationally, according to the 2017 American Housing Survey.

Going to Court

In late August, a few days after Juana left the hospital following her transplant, a uniformed officer who only spoke English knocked on her door. The officer told her she had 24 hours to pay the nearly $5,000 she and her husband owed in rent or be kicked out.

Juana, who was still recovering from the surgery, dressed herself and made a slow and painful trek down a flight of stairs and across a parking lot to the management office.

The office staff noticed her discomfort and asked what was wrong. Juana told them an officer had just told her she had to leave in 24 hours. She had worked out a payment plan with the manager, she explained. They told her that manager no longer worked there.

 

The new manager said Juana and her husband would be evicted unless they paid their debt in full, according to Juana.

The investment company that owns the several-hundred-unit complex where the couple lives filed for eviction the following month. Juana’s husband, who was the only one named on the court order, appeared before an eviction judge in November. During the hearing, the judge asked him whether he and Juana had been affected by COVID-19 and told them about the state’s eviction moratorium. The judge also said it was up to the landlord to work out a repayment plan.

Juana said the new manager would not take the $200 or $300 dollars they had been paying every other week. “She wanted the payment in full or nothing,” Juana said.

By February, the couple owed more than $10,000 in back rent. Juana had recovered from surgery and was trying to find help anyway she could. Then one day she heard about the Dallas Rental Assistance Program. Aided by the people in her leasing office, Juana applied for the relief but was denied.

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