Houston, TX – Lone Star Legal Aid’s Dana Karni, Managing Attorney of the Eviction Right to Counsel unit, has been appointed to the Harris County and the City of Houston’s Housing Stability Task Force. With sixteen years’ experience, Ms. Karni’s practice covers cases in Justice of the Peace courts, state civil courts, and includes federal civil district court litigation on behalf of her consumer and tenant clients. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Karni has served as a member on the Texas Supreme Court subcommittees proposing language for emergency orders related to evictions, debt collection, and protection of stimulus payments as well as practical guidance issued to the Justices of the Peace. Furthermore, Ms. Karni is a founding member of a coalition of local eviction defense service providers who have been studying and exploring increasing access to justice, including via an eviction right-to-counsel initiative for Harris County.

The Task Force’s Steering Committee has 24 community members that have been designated to address the local housing crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and energy industry downturn. Members will recommend ways city and county officials can respond to the housing crisis, with special attention paid to low-income residents and communities of color.

On June 23, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University released its State of Housing in Harris County and Houston report, which lists several challenges the region is facing, including a decrease in affordable housing options for renters.

“The affordability once associated with the Houston region was disappearing even before we began to grapple with the one-two punch of economic and public health crises,” Kinder Institute Director Bill Fulton said in a statement. “The issue of evictions does not exist in a vacuum. Evictions have a cascade effect that extends beyond the housing system, affecting the health and future of our community.” According to January Advisors, 23,405 eviction cases have been filed in Harris County from April 1, 2020, until August 14, 2020.

The Houston Housing Stability Task Force is co-chaired by Harris County Justice of the Peace Jeremy Brown and civic leader Ric Campo of Camden Property Trust. Additional members include the following.

  • John Boriack (Veritas Equity Management)
  • Mark Thiele (Houston Housing Authority)
  • Maria Verdeja (Harris County Community Services Department)
  • Dana Karni (Lone Star Legal Aid)
  • Tom McCasland (Houston Housing and Community Development Department)
  • Courtney Johnson Rose (George E. Johnson Properties)
  • Zoe Middleton (Texas Housers)
  • Chrishelle Palay (HOME Coalition)
  • Claudia Aguirre (Baker Ripley)
  • Alan Watkins (Wells Fargo)
  • Celesté Arredondo-Peterson (Texas Organizing Project)
  • Marcia Johnson (Thurgood Marshall School of Law)
  • Mary Lawler (Avenue CDC)
  • Guadalupe Fernandez (Tahirih Justice Center)
  • Lori Pampilo Harris (Houston Housing Collaborative)
  • Jay Malone (Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation)
  • Jeff Reichman (January Advisors)
  • Diana Zarzuelo (Greater Houston Community Foundation)
  • Cynthia N. Colbert (Catholic Charities)
  • Margaret Oser (United Way)
  • Ana Rausch (Coalition for the Homeless)
  • Howard Bookstaff (Hoover Slovacek)

Officials said the recent economic downturn has affected renters and homeowners, alike. The task force will focus on eviction prevention, mitigating effects on tenants and landlords, and stabilizing households for the benefit of public health, according to the press release.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org