Via: Dallas Business Journal

By: Bill Hethcock

When the landlord wanted to raise the rent on the small two-bedroom apartment in North Dallas that Adriana Godines lived in with her husband and daughter, Godines thought it wasn’t worth it.

“When they said they were going to up our rent, we were like, ‘nope.’ We will move. But we didn’t know that the rent was going to be really expensive everywhere.”

The family ended up moving from the apartment in the Royal Lane area to a house in the Fair Park area to avoid paying an additional $300 a month at the apartment.

It’s a move that Godines sometimes regrets.

“In this area, it is cheaper, but there are shootings almost every day,” Godines said. “Crime, prostitution, drug addiction and all that stuff. If I look through the window now, I can see prostitutes and people high on drugs walking around on the streets. Almost every single night you can hear gunshots.”

Like Godines, many women struggle with finding, attaining and staying in affordable, quality housing, according to the “Economic Issues for Women in Texas” report by the Texas Women’s Foundation.

The statewide research highlights challenges facing women and girls that threaten their financial security.

For most women, housing represents the single-highest cost in their budget, said Dena Jackson, chief operating officer of Texas Women’s Foundation. The burden is especially high for women of color, she said.

One in three single mothers and women living alone struggle to pay bills because of high housing costs, according to the report.

In Texas, almost one in five single women and single mothers experience “severe housing burden,” or spending more than 50 percent of income on housing, the report says.

Another problem is that landlords often don’t accept Housing Choice Vouchers in Texas. Families with very low incomes may be eligible for government-funded housing assistance through the vouchers, which pay a portion of rent to landlords on behalf of low-income individuals and families.

However, under Texas law, landlords cannot be punished for discriminating against families who are using federal housing vouchers, Jackson said.

Women are evicted from apartments at higher rates, said Ashley McIver, community philanthropy officer at Dallas-based Communities Foundation of Texas and one of the CFT staff experts on economic security and housing issues.

In Texas, the eviction rate is 2.17 percent, which means that each year, out of 100 renters, slightly over two will be evicted, resulting in 206 evictions every day, Jackson said.

Eviction is a highly gendered issue. she said. Women with children are the most likely to receive an eviction judgement.

Evictions result in homelessness, school changes and nonattendance, court records, bad credit and job loss, Jackson said. They make it harder to find subsequent housing and result in a downward spiral to lower and lower quality housing.

Housing is intertwined with other issues, such as transportation, McIver said.

“You look at how long it takes a person to get to work,” McIver said. “Can they live and work in the same area? Most likely not (in DFW). Obviously the jobs are further north. But when you look at housing, affordability, those jobs don’t lend themselves to incomes to be able to live and work in the same place.”

The longer commutes in turn impact child care, McIver said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated a difficult housing situation, she said.

“You had people who were housing unstable even before COVID,” McIver said. “Then you had those who were on the edge. What COVID has illuminated is, if you lose your job or your hours are cut, that’s a substantial difference in your income coming into the household. People who were at least housed are now in a state of crisis and housing insecure.”

Godines lost her job as a nanny shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She worked for a family in which the father was a chef who lost his job when the restaurant he worked at closed, Godines said.

“It’s a chain reaction,” she said.

For now, she’s happy that her family can pay rent based primarily on her husband’s job in air conditioner installation.

“We are tight on money, but thank God we could pay the rent,” Godines said. “We feel lucky. We thank God we are able to afford to have a house. Not everybody at this time is able to do that.”