Homelessness Prevention through Eviction Diversion in Houston: an RCT

Last registered on July 27, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Homelessness Prevention through Eviction Diversion in Houston: an RCT
Initial registration date
July 21, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
July 27, 2023, 7:51 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


Primary Investigator

the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
The Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School
PI Affiliation
The University of Houston Law Center

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Harris County leads the nation in evictions – which disproportionately affect households of color and, some evidence suggests, negatively influence health, education, and generational wealth. Harris County’s statistics do not include “informal evictions,” forced moves outside the court process that are often the result of illegal landlord action, such as telling a tenant to leave, changing the locks, or refusing to make necessary repairs. Beyond haphazardly available cash from charities for rent relief, however, informal eviction interventions are few. We will pilot a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess whether it is possible to reduce illegal or unnecessary informal evictions by increasing legal literacy, that is, by teaching tenants more about how to assert their rights. The study will further test whether legal literacy can improve outcomes for tenants when they do find themselves facing eviction. Finally, this study will assess ways to improve take-up of legal services. We will begin to investigate the hypothesis that legal literacy is a useful tool for eviction diversion.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Danser, Renee, Alissa Gomez and D. James Greiner. 2023. "Homelessness Prevention through Eviction Diversion in Houston: an RCT." AEA RCT Registry. July 27. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.11452-1.0
Sponsors & Partners



Experimental Details


This pilot will implement an RCT to assess the effect of a Houston, TX LSP’s “Know Your Rights” text messaging program both as a device to stimulate take-up of legal services and as a way of improving housing stability outcomes.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcomes are whether those who receive information about their housing rights and available legal services take up eviction prevention legal services more often and remain more housing-secure than those who do not.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
To understand take-up of legal services, the research team will access publicly-available court data related to housing through an online court record search (which will also provide information on whether litigation was filed). These data will include counsel-of-record information that identifies the legal services provider as well as the specific attorney by name. The A2J Lab will also include survey questions to elicit whether participants accessed limited scope services, such as lawyer-for-a-day programs, brief advice clinics, or community-based legal self-help centers. These survey questions will also serve to validate court record data by asking about filings and attorney interaction. Understanding eviction case information, such as whether an eviction was filed and the outcome of that filing, will help to understand if this prevention mechanism is serving to reduce formal evictions.

To understand housing security and informal evictions, the A2J Lab will use surveys designed and successfully employed in other studies assessing the dimensions of housing security described above. Coupled with this survey data, the research team will access housing records from the HMIS and the public utility companies serving the area. The A2J Lab will define housing instability as relocation or becoming homeless within a year as measured by the surveys and administrative data.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Connective Texts is a texting service that sends residents information about how to access free resources in the Greater Houston area. People sign up to receive two to three text messages per week. Resources shared in these texts include food distributions, rent payment assistance, utility assistance, and legal support. Connective Texts currently has over 58,000 voluntary enrollees, many of whom learned about the program while applying for rent relief and direct assistance payments relating to COVID-19 hardships, which Connective coordinated for Harris County and the City of Houston.

In the pilot, one of the two to three texts Connective sends each week will ask recipients whether they self-identify as at-risk for eviction, as housing unstable, or as challenged by the conditions of their rental property or their landlord. Those that do so self-identify will then be asked if litigation of these issues is pending. Those that indicate litigation is not pending will receive information about the study and be asked to consent. The pilot will assess the attrition rate of those willing to consent to the study protocol. The A2J Lab will randomize consenting participants either to receive or not to receive Know-Your-Rights information via texts. Texts will include information about what actions may put a tenant at risk for eviction, what proactive steps a tenant can take when at risk of eviction, and information about how to access available legal services.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
100 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
100 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 individuals treatment, 50 individuals control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
While the pilot will assess attrition rates, we can assume some attrition with a best guess of enrollment at 50 people per month for a period of two years. Assuming a worst-case rate of usage of legal services at 0.5 and two years of enrollment, a 0.8 power of detection would fall close to -0.075 from baseline. Assuming a relocation rate of 0.25, a 0.8 power of detection for housing stability would similarly fall close to -0.075 from baseline.
Supporting Documents and Materials


Document Name
Pilot Survey Instrument
Document Type
Document Description
This survey instrument will be deployed three times over the course of the one year pilot study.
Pilot Survey Instrument

MD5: 2230af49538a07dab08cb613b368dc93

SHA1: 8606503b376df6ad60b106145e76618764a84228

Uploaded At: July 21, 2023

Document Name
IRB Protocol
Document Type
Document Description
This is the IRB protocol approved by the Harvard Area Committee on the Use of Human Subjects.
IRB Protocol

MD5: 22d327730670b6b1311f7b8f9f0a294a

SHA1: 0aa428b42879eaeca4a52e3673a46b78125f1915

Uploaded At: July 21, 2023


Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Harvard Area Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Pre-Analysis Plan

MD5: 44df8e89cf6085cd1be6e74f226dd7fa

SHA1: 9bc1dc858e9005a6eb3f3961a54b824999ab5d20

Uploaded At: July 21, 2023