Texas Housers is excited to announce the release of “Emergency Rental Assistance in Texas: How it went and what happens now,” a report on the factors that impacted the performance of local ERA programs in Texas. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s ERA initiative was an unprecedented investment in eviction prevention that allowed state and local governments to stabilize low-income renters facing eviction during the COVID-19 crisis. Now that the majority of jurisdictions have depleted their federal funds, it is critical to assess the successes and failures of ERA.
In the state of Texas, 37 local jurisdictions operated ERA programs under vastly different political and cultural contexts. These programs ranged from among the most to least successful in the nation, which makes Texas a useful case study for exploring factors that led to some ERA programs excelling and others struggling. In this report, we investigate local contexts for ERA successes and challenges in Texas by analyzing programmatic and interview data collected from 10 local programs across the state.
Central findings include:
- Pre-existing experience, capacity, and infrastructure at the local level was a primary determinant of a jurisdiction’s success in distributing ERA.
- Some programs experienced unique challenges as a result of local cultural or political contexts, like gaining the trust of low-income people in the Texas-Mexico border region and overcoming barriers established by elected officials in conservative counties.
- The Treasury’s flexible ERA guidelines privileged the jurisdictions that had established systems for rental assistance distribution, but did not meet the needs of those without the pre-existing conditions that were necessary for success or those that experienced additional regionally-specific challenges.
We conclude the report with actions that must be taken at the local and federal level to ensure that all jurisdictions are in a position to support low-income renters through the next emergency, as well as the ongoing eviction crisis.
Local governments must:
- Preserve the infrastructure that was developed to distribute ERA.
- Assess and document new local capacities and relationships that were gained during ERA operations.
- Strengthen and solidify community and non-profit relationships and networks.
- Develop a plan for emergency rental stabilization in the future and act on a plan for holistic eviction prevention in the present.
The federal government must:
- Allocate more funding for rental assistance and emergency rental assistance to state and local governments.
- For future programs similar to ERA:
- Provide flexible guidelines and offer additional, hands-on guidance to jurisdictions with limited experience or additional challenges.
- Have a plan for uncooperative local governments.
- Set requirements or strongly recommended guidelines for programmatic relationships between overlapping city and county governments.
During the pandemic, the federal government and localities made a commitment to stabilizing low-income renters and minimizing needless and preventable evictions. Now, they must carry the momentum into the post-pandemic future.