In-Depth: Texas among the worst for affordable rentals & homeless being pushed out of enchantments

Is Texas becoming the new California?
Posted at 8:13 PM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 23:49:13-04

WACO, Texas — Looking for a rental in Central Texas? Or Texas for that matter? Good luck. The National Low Income Housing Coalition found Texas tied for sixth place for states with the least amount of available rental housing for low-income families.

Behind the Headlines: Normally, houses are to be sold. A hot rental market shows high demand and stable rental rates for investors.

Who does it affect? Renting or buying in Central is now expensive. And lower-income families are starting to feel the heat.

The shortage of affordable homes in the state of Texas: 614,487- The total of the current shortage of rental homes that are affordable and available for extremely low-income renters.

Between Killeen-Temple, Waco, and the Brazos Valley, there are over 118 thousand families using affordable housing. Finding a place is not as easy as it may sound.

In-Depth: Texas among the worst for affordable rentals & homeless being pushed out of enchantments

Many Texas cities have made the list for the top 10 cities with the fewest rental housing units made affordable and available to extremely low-income people.

Homeless Camping under bridges
A homeless lady speaking to reporter Nick Bradshaw about her experience with homelessness.

In Waco under the 17th and 18th bridges was once a homeless enchantment. Recently Waco PD and the City of Waco came in and cleared the area out.

IN-DEPTH: Homeless camping in Texas could see a fine up to $500

In October when we last saw the area, plenty of evidence of a tent city was apparent. People living in tents set up alongside the road, fires lit, and stuff- both useful items and trash- everywhere.

Homeless camping in public areas could see a fine up to $500
Melissa shows us her camp area in Waco.

"They all complied and now the city has been back every now and then to clean the area fully for construction to go in," said Cierra Shipley, public information officer of Waco PD.
No one has gone on the record about what's happening in the area.

"The people here, the homeless people, they are my family," said one person camping on private property after being asked to leave.

We spent the day speaking with folks under the bridge that would gather. Many seemed to be upset about being cleared out but said the police were respectful.

"You know what, you're cutting down trees, you're telling these people you've got to move, which means what? They are coming closer to you," said one camper who said she had permission from a landowner to camp in someone's backyard.

Last year, law House Bill 1925 was passed that would make camping in an unapproved public place a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. The bill calls for law enforcement officers to redirect homeless people to available local resources — such as shelters or nonprofit groups — “before or at the time” they issue a citation.

"But add a failure to appear; now you're looking at a warrant," said one man under 18th Bridge.

Property in that area was ignored for a while. According to Waco police, they had received complaints.

Camps under bridges in Waco
Under bridges in Waco you'll find signs of camp fires where people have cooked and trying to keep warm.

With affordable housing difficult for the working poor, it's even more difficult for the homeless.

"We've got strong population growth, we're one of the fastest-growing states in the nation," said
Clare Losey, an assistant research economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. "So on the demand side, we just have very strong fundamentals. And then that's really constrained on the supply side."

We see many companies making a move to Texas. The population continues to grow in cities around Texas making it difficult to keep up with the demand.

"Where we have a shortage of availability of developable land, especially in our large cities, are already somewhat supply-constrained in that sense. And then we're also facing a lot of issues with construction materials and labor," said Losey.

What's out there for those struggling to make it? Losey says research shows that temporary housing tends to work. But there are just so many beds.

"It's going to be increasingly difficult, not only for the working poor but especially for the homeless to find housing," said Losey.