Keep up with what’s happening in the Texas rental housing industry

Express-News eviction series runs; may be sign of future industry-focused coverage

Synopsis

Learn more about how the Texas Apartment Association is responding to increased media attention and focus on issues like eviction.


Key takeaways

  • The San Antonio Express-News’ December series on eviction may be an indication of stepped-up media attention on housing issues.
  • The Texas Apartment Association has developed new resources to assist with the issue of eviction, and is working on other steps and initiatives that will help us better convey the industry’s story and perspective.

With greater focus on housing affordability and rental housing issues in both the media and political circles, the Texas Apartment Association is working to ensure the industry’s perspective is heard.

A December series on evictions in the San Antonio Express-News (note that a subscription may be required) was one of the more extensive news series regarding tenants’ rights in recent years and, if Texas media outlets follow national trends, could be a sign of what to expect in the future.

Such stories may reflect or inspire policy debates at either the local or state level, so it is doubly important to make sure that TAA and our affiliates are actively engaged with the media.

How TAA worked with this series

After first learning of these planned stories in July, TAA retained a public relations firm to help prepare our response. We also engaged local association staff and leadership in both San Antonio and Houston to discuss the story and share local perspectives on the eviction issue. (Initially, reporters from Houston and San Antonio were involved in researching the issue.) TAA staff and selected members also met with the reporters to discuss the eviction process in Texas and provide written resource materials.

During our Fall Board of Directors meeting in Arlington, we briefed members and local association leadership regarding the series.

Following publication of the series last month, TAA staff met again with San Antonio Apartment Association leadership and staff to discuss member reaction to the stories. While we determined, in consultation with our outside public relations firm, not to do any immediate follow-up responses, such as a letter to the editor, guest editorial or communications with policymakers, we are prepared should there be other media coverage either in San Antonio or other parts of the state in response to the series.

Regardless of what may happen at a public policy level, the recent eviction series has resulted in action in several regards:

  1. We developed background material and some suggested Q&As on eviction, and shared these with our local affiliates to ensure the association and our members are speaking with one voice on this issue.
  2. We have revised our notice to vacate forms to be more consistent and make clearer to residents that they may face eviction court filings.
  3. As part of a broader data initiative, we are looking at what eviction-related data we should be tracking. The Texas Supreme Court Office of Court Administration publishes an annual report showing the cumulative numbers of landlord/tenant cases in JP courts and the numbers of appeals in such cases, but doesn’t break that information down regarding location, type of complaint or the resolution.
  4. TAA will be revising the public-facing side of our website to provide clearer and easier-to-find impartial information for renters regarding the eviction process and Texas law.
  5. We are developing position papers that respond to some of the common questions that came up in the eviction series and related media coverage. These will serve as a tool for both TAA and affiliates in responding to future media inquiries, as well as for use with policymakers.

On a related note, the TAA Strategic Plan that will be considered by the Board next month includes a public relations objective to better tell the industry’s storyWorking with the Public Affairs Committee, TAA will be exploring how we strengthen our position as an industry thought-leader and continue to be viewed by the media and lawmakers as the go-to source for information about the rental housing industry.

The first part of this work is underway as part of a previously approved initiative that is focused specifically on housing affordability, which will hopefully serve as a foundation for the strategic plan initiative.

More from January 2020 Member Newsletter

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