The Institute for Urban Policy Research partnered with the Texas Tenants Union to better understand the impact of eviction remediation programs on the plight of tenants in the City of Dallas. In Dallas, roughly three of every five households rent their home; programs aimed at preventing eviction are pertinent to most of Dallas's population (U. S. Census Bureau, 2020). Financial impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic threatened many households in Dallas and the early days of the pandemic saw multiple policy and procedure interventions, including court closures and the CARES Act. Dallas City Council was among the first localities to act, pass an eviction ordinance to protect renters from losing their homes.
In this study, we pursue a mixed-methods approach, embracing both qualitative and quantitative research tools. Working with Dallas County, whose Justice of the Peace courts are the courts of original jurisdictions for evictions in Texas, we secured case filing data for January through June of 2019 and 2020. This data was used to perform a series of regression analyses comparing the volume of evictions in Dallas and surrounding cities. Next, we randomly sampled cases filed in one Dallas County Justice of the Peace court, including portions of Dallas and surrounding communities. We conducted a systematic record review of the entire case file for each of the randomly sampled cases. Finally, we engaged a purposive sample of local government and non-profit leaders, as well as affected tenants, in a focus group setting to understand their experiences with eviction in Dallas.
While the quantitative results do suggest some impact of these policy responses, the findings are not encouraging. First, the milieu of policies enacted offered no universal protection to any broad segment of renting households. Second, many of those protected by these policies did not know their status, and efforts to educate them were not universally deployed. Finally, even when protected tenants were aware of their protection, their attempts to assert their rights were met by a system often confused on how to respect them.