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City of Dallas looks at adding protections to help city residents avoid evictions

Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz
Dallas officials are looking at ways to protect residents from being evicted.

Dallas passed temporary rules early in the COVID pandemic that give to help renters avoid evictions. But those eviction rules may soon expire — before the city council can vote on a permanent ordinance.

The rules give tenants extra time to make up missed rent payments before their landlord can evict them.

Council member Adam Bazaldua said the city needs a stopgap measure.

“For us to allow for this to go off of the books and sunset something that is protecting people and allow for them to be most vulnerable and on the street…is absurd,” Bazaldua said.

The city is working with tenant and landlord advocates to draft an ordinance.

City staff have put together a “rough draft” of a permanent ordinance, Assistant City Manager Liz Cedillo-Pereira said, but she suggested it wouldn’t be ready for the council to vote on until early 2023.

Meanwhile, the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, which represents landlords, and the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center, which offers free legal help for tenants facing eviction, have worked out a deal that could continue offering some extra protections to renters while the city works to make it permanent.

Evictions had been on the rise in Dallas before the COVID pandemic. January 2020 marked an all-time high. When the pandemic hit — and as local, state and federal protections were quickly drafted to keep renters in their homes and socially distant — eviction filings plummeted.

Rental assistance helped many tenants make up past-due rent and utility bills. But as those funds have run out and protections have all but disappeared, eviction filings have climbed dramatically.

Dallas already has seen more eviction cases filed this year than were filed in all of 2021.

Nearly 20,000 cases have been filed in 2022, according to the Child Poverty Action Lab

Mark Melton from the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center says inflation is driving this trend.

“Rents in Dallas County are up 30% in the past two years, and so is gasoline, food and almost everything that a person has to buy,” Melton said. “People are out there working multiple jobs and they can’t pay rent. Not because they’re lazy, or because they’re choosing not to, but because they need to feed their kids and put gas in their car.”

Tenants living in housing with federally backed mortgages or who receive federally subsidized housing are still covered by a federal rule giving them an extra 30 days before they can be evicted. But Melton said those are few and far between, so renters are largely unprotected

The city is expected to run out of rental assistance funds in the coming weeks and has requested additional federal funding.

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

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Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.