Evictions on the rise in these Oak Cliff zip codes

Shortly after a national moratorium on evictions ended, representatives of the Oak Cliff-area Under One Roof Association set up tables and computers in the lobby of a multi-family property where dozens of residents had just received eviction notices.

Volunteers and apartment managers were there to help tenants apply for rent assistance by translating documents and filling out paperwork. The property management company, City Gate, owns buildings in Oak Cliff and across Dallas and wanted to make sure residents knew help was available, said Dawn Waye, founder and operator of City Gate.

“We knocked on doors, called, printed flyers, and made sure our staff treated people with compassion, because we know fear can prevent a person from coming for help,” she says.

“All they had to do was go downstairs, acknowledge that their rent would be paid and sign,” Waye says.

This first Under One Roof visit benefited at least 25 households by helping them catch up on their rent. Many hadn’t paid for more than a year, hurting homeowners who use rent money to fund payroll, pay taxes, pay mortgages and maintain their properties, Waye says.

“The last thing we want to do is kick anyone out of their house,” she said. “It’s certainly not the hearts of the people I work with in the industry.”

In early 2020, Dallas eviction requests were 15 to 20% above historical averages, according to researchers at Princeton’s Eviction Lab. Recognizing the looming problem and fearing a wave of displaced tenants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020 declared a moratorium temporarily preventing evictions for non-payment.

The evictions virtually came to a standstill for nine months. Even when the moratorium ended, the eviction crisis many feared did not materialize, although cases slowly started to escalate. But in early December, expulsions started to increase rapidly, putting the month on track to reach 85% more than average declarations.

Landlords such as City Gate, housing advocates, volunteer lawyers and apartment associations are working to stem a wave of evictions, using data to identify problematic areas of the city and resources to pay the rents.

“It costs the community a lot less than having to put them through the entire rehousing system they would go into if they were homeless,” says Ashley Brundage, executive director of housing stability and senior vice president of the community impact at United Way. .

But will that be enough?

In Dallas County, residents of 75237, 75232 and 75115 face some of the highest eviction request rates in early December. This includes part of Oak Cliff, the Red Bird area, Wolf Creek, and DeSoto.

Lawyer Mark Melton and his wife, Lauren, founded the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center during the pandemic to help disenfranchised tenants fight landlord lawyers.

Melton, a tax lawyer who began taking charge of ex gratia cases during the pandemic, says in all but nine of 2,000 cases over a six-month period, there has been something that could be done to guard the house, whether that is pointing out the complainant’s illegalities or helping to obtain rental assistance.

“Although laws exist to protect people, evictions rarely occur according to the law because tenants don’t know better themselves,” says Melton.

“The populations in the apartments are vulnerable. You run out of work because you’re sick, or your job is down, or whatever happens, you’re screwed, ”says Melton. “This is a problem that we are seeing across the country, and the disproportionality of the expulsions, based on race, is quite blatant.”

United Way is identifying partners in eviction hotspots to distribute rent assistance funds more quickly and will launch a new program in January, Brundage said.

The federal government has allocated $ 50 billion in funds for housing assistance through the federal Coronavirus Relief Assistance and Economic Security Act. It was up to local governments to channel these funds to organizations and people who needed them.

Under One Roof had $ 750,000 in rental assistance funds to fork out, Waye says, and association volunteers have returned to help tenants on their properties until those funds were exhausted.

“We are seeing more and more homeless people during this time, and this is in part because the safety nets have been strained and stretched to the limit,” Brundage said. “There is no additional fund or room to lend to someone.”

While the eviction data is interesting, it doesn’t tell the whole story, says Jason Simon, director of government affairs at the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas.

“One thing is that he doesn’t analyze non-payment of rent evictions versus evictions for other reasons,” he says. “Some of our members have acquired (problematic) properties, but we can’t help clean them up without the tools to be allowed to remove tenants.

“Another concern with some data is that it looks at deportation records, and there is a big difference between filing an eviction and an actual physical deportation.”

Sometimes landlords sign an eviction notice to get the attention of a tenant who doesn’t pay – “to come talk to us,” Simon says.

“For members (of the apartment association), eviction is a last resort,” explains Simon. “It doesn’t make financial sense to evict. It doesn’t make sense on a human level, really in a lot of ways, so it’s really our last resort.

Brundage says she hopes the lessons learned during the pandemic can lead to lasting solutions.

“If anything good came out of this, it’s how our organizations across the community have come together and come together to serve customers,” said Brundage.

“We keep telling ourselves, ‘We can’t let this go. We create so many great things. We’ve made such good progress that once COVID is gone, we can’t let it fade. “

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