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Harris County launches eviction diversion pilot program

Synopsis

The Houston Apartment Association is part of a pilot effort in Harris County to match residents facing eviction with available local services before an eviction case is filed.


Key takeaways

  • A group of Harris County organizations, including the Houston Apartment Association, is partnering in an effort to assist some residents facing eviction.
  • The Eviction Pilot Program seeks to match struggling renters with services before they wind up in Justice of the Peace Court.
  • As part of the effort, Texas Southern University will undertake a two-year study looking at why evictions are happening in Harris County and who is most at risk.

The Houston Apartment Association is part of a group of local organizations that has launched the Eviction Pilot Program, an effort designed to study the causes of eviction in Harris County and connect struggling renters with services before they wind up in justice of the peace court.

Precinct 7, Place 1 Justice of the Peace Jeremy Brown is spearheading the effort, which is limited to renters in his jurisdiction. The organizations partnering on the project include HAA, the Coalition for the Homeless, the Harris County Community Services Department and Texas Southern University. Barbara Poppe, the executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness during the Obama administration, is consulting on the project. If successful, partners hope the program can spread throughout the area.

Renters will be referred to the program by their participating property owner, and screened for eligibility. Referrals occur after the resident has received a notice to vacate, but before an eviction case has been formally filed. In Texas, that is a maximum of three days, but can be a shorter timeframe.

About 20 property owners in Brown’s precinct attended the first information session about the program. The typical candidate for the program might be a resident who’s been laid off from one job, has gotten a new job, but has not yet been paid. Residents who habitually pay rent late because of irresponsible behavior are not the renters the program is targeting.

Texas Southern University (TSU) will be conducting a two-year study looking at why evictions are happening in Houston and who’s most at risk. From that data, partners hope to recommend policy changes. TSU will look at demographic data, survey property owners and residents and look at availability and affordability of housing in the area.

Read more about this effort in The Houston Chronicle.

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