According to community leaders, about 10,000 renters have been evicted from March through August in the Houston area before the recent eviction moratorium was put into place by the Center for Disease Control to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC ordered a national eviction moratorium, halting evictions effective Sept. 4 through the end of 2020 as COVID-19 continues to cause health and economic hardships. But residents will still be under obligation to pay rent, so those eligible need to apply to Houston’s $60 million rental assistance program allocated through the City of Houston and Harris County, said The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) members, a nonprofit of church groups.
“Evictions put us all at risk,” said TMO’s Bob Fleming. “People who are evicted move in with other people and compound liability to COVID-19 by creating more density.”
Baptist Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, as part of a TMO press conference, said, “The CDC order creates a welcomed pause in evictions in this area, but it is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31.”
[Photo Credit: Jo Ann Zuñiga, Texas Catholic Herald]
Thousands Evicted in Houston Area Before Eviction Moratorium, Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
Leaders with The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a coalition of churches and organizations that work to help low-income, local communities, are calling on Justices of the Peace to halt evictions and for renters to take action to prevent losing their homes.
Beginning Friday, a new evictions moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes place. The rare order prohibits landlords from evicting any tenants through the end of the year but does not relieve renters of having to pay their rent and other fees in the future.
TMO leaders said during a Friday press conference while the CDC's sweeping moratorium is a step in the right direction, it's not enough.
“The CDC order creates a welcome pause in evictions in this area but is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31” Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, a leader with TMO, said in a news release.
“COVID-19 is not going anywhere, and it is time for Congress to return to negotiations to pass the next stimulus bill, including $100 Billion in rental assistance,” TMO Leader Rev. Scott Cooper said in the release.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT Physicians]
Houston Coronavirus Updates: What You Need To Know For September 4th, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
On June 16, Common Ground held a civic academy with over 80 leaders, who learned together about strategies to strengthen testing, tracing, and supportive isolation efforts to contain COVID-19. In the research leading up to their academy, they learned that the county would receive $46.5 million in CARES Act funding throughout the state.
When leaders approached county officials about how these funds would be spent, they were met with surprise — no one seemed to know about the funds.
Common Ground leaders immediately initiated meetings with state legislators, county supervisors, and other officials. They organized house meetings and developed a budget of investments needed to support the needs of Solano county families and workers — including funding for TTSI as well as funds for rental assistance and a promotores outreach program to Spanish-speaking families.
When the budget passed, thanks to the urging of Common Ground leaders, it included double the original proposed amount for rental assistance.
...during the early portion of an Aug. 11 meeting of Pitkin County commissioners... representatives of the Mountain Voices Project — a consortium of more than 25 nonprofits, faith-based organizations and other entities in the Roaring Fork Valley — sought financial support for a new “landlord-tenant recovery fund” designed to assist low-income families struggling to make ends meet amid the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lindsay Lofaro, executive director of The Buddy Program in Aspen, was one of several speakers advocating for Pitkin County’s support of the fund. She got involved in facilitating the discussion, she said, because her nonprofit mentoring organization is a member of Mountain Voices Project (also known as MVP) — and also because of her familiarity with Pitkin County officials and local fundraising sources.
According to information provided by MVP, the overall request is for $1 million to get the program started this year...
The general plan calls for families to receive three months of rental assistance. MVP will supply one-third of the payments to landlords. The families themselves will pay one-third. The balance would be foregone by the landlords themselves, should they agree to participate. The Uncle Bob Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Garfield County Housing Authority, will serve as fiscal agent for the fund.
[Photo Credit: Andre Salvail, Aspen Daily News]
Marin County supervisors have extended a ban on renter evictions through the end of September in an effort to prevent tenants from losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the two-month extension. The temporary ban was first enacted in March and extended in April, May and June. It was set to expire July 31.
Under the countywide moratorium, a landlord cannot evict a residential tenant who is unable to pay rent due to financial losses stemming from the pandemic. Those can include increased child care expenses because of school closures, or lost wages due to reduced hours or layoffs.
Julia Kiely, a member of the Marin Organizing Committee, urged the supervisors to bolster funding for legal services for tenants facing eviction. She said the moratorium is “not self-enforcing.”
“Safe, secure housing is critical to both healthy outcomes and controlling community spread of the virus,” Kiely said.
Lucie Hollingsworth, a senior attorney with Legal Aid of Marin, urged the supervisors to consider ways to help renters who are unable to pay back missed rent after the ban expires to “stem the tidal wave of evictions that looms.”
“An extension only serves as a temporary Band-Aid,” Hollingsworth said. “Expecting tenants to come up with thousands of dollars in back-rent when the moratorium expires is unrealistic.”
[Photo Credit: Marin Independent Journal]
Marin County Extends Eviction Ban Through September, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
“When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on,” said Adriana Godines, a volunteer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a community group made up of religious congregations, schools and other nonprofits. “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”
And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.
“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.’”
Godines has seen homes with 12 people living together as people who self-evict move in with loved ones.
“It’s people of all ages. Kids, adults, sometimes senior citizens,” she said.
Godines has worked with families searching for rental assistance, and she said that funds are running low among nonprofit organizations that are allowed to serve undocumented immigrants.
“We want to do more, but we don’t have more resources,” Godines said. “But the little that we have in this community, we give it.”
Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas explained that many priests and churchgoers have pooled together resources to pay for rent and food for undocumented migrants. But he, too, worries how long such resources will last.
“I don’t think we know yet how serious this is or how long it will last. When the city assistance program opened, the help available was overwhelmed in the first couple of hours,” Kelly said. “It could be a very lengthy situation. There’s so much uncertainty.”
[Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang, The Texas Tribune]
DAI Raises Alarm That Undocumented Immigrants are Self-Evicting, Texas Tribune [pdf]
Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association Call for $100 Billion in Emergency Rental Relief
After distributing $1.2 million in May, the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department announced Tuesday $17.75 million will be available to help renters in the second round of the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Program.
The city will use a lottery system to pick funding recipients, so for people like Carlota Garcia with Central Texas Interfaith, the worry is about those who won’t get picked.
“No longer are we able to borrow from friends or borrow from family, savings accounts have been pillaged, there is no cushion left for people,” she said. “This moment has the potential to become disastrous.”
She said the state and the federal government should create a plan that gets those in need help beyond the next six months.
“In order for us to be able to prevent families from falling into starvation, or worse, we really need to have the federal government step up, as well as the statewide government..."
[Photo: Footage by KXAN]
Joint Statement on Emergency Rental Relief, Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association
The council passed a resolution calling for Gov. Kevin Stitt to temporarily block residential evictions unless a landlord is responding to a tenant’s criminal behavior or dangerous activities.
“We’re really just asking the governor to pay attention to Oklahomans who are really struggling right now” as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, said City Councilor Lori Decter Wright, one of the sponsors of the resolution.
The push for a statewide eviction moratorium started with a Tulsa religious coalition known as ACTION and a similar group called VOICE-OKC in Oklahoma City, where the City Council has said it will vote on a similar resolution.
In effect until July 25, a federal moratorium already applies to rental properties that have federally backed mortgages, but the Tulsa City Council wants the same protection for tenants in all rental properties.
Landlords would benefit, as well, said Councilor Kara Joy McKee, explaining that tenants would ultimately still have to pay their rents in full but would have more time to seek employment or government assistance.
“Our tenants and landlords need this support at this time,” McKee said.
[Photo credit: Joey Johnson, Tulsa World]
TMO is among the coalition of nonprofits that have approached the city and county to urge the equitable distribution of those funds.
“We asked City Council to commit $100 million of the $404 million in the Coronavirus Relief Fund to rental assistance. But the next day, they committed $15 million that was distributed online in a matter of minutes to about 12,000 families,” Higgs said.
“A survey shows of the 700,000 rental units in the area, up to 85,000 cannot pay rent at this time. A huge number of the people are service workers, men and women of color, hourly workers who lost their jobs with little if any savings. The need is so immense,” he said.
With any moratoriums on evictions ending, justices of the peace may resume processing eviction notices by mid-June and constables will start showing up at apartments, he said.
“It doesn’t make sense to evict someone who has paid regularly but is not able to currently pay during this crisis. Plus, when someone in uniform shows up to evict, it’s scary as heck, especially for those who may be undocumented,” Higgs said.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church]
Facing Eviction, Single Mothers With Kids Hit Hardest By Need For Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
On the heels of leveraging $10 Million in housing assistance from Travis County, Central Texas Interfaith leaders called on the City of Austin to provide at least $40 Milllion in rental assistance for economically distressed families in the COVID-19 crisis. On Thursday, June 4, the Austin City Council unanimously responded.
Central Texas Interfaith commends the Mayor, Austin City Council and City Manager for approving a COVID spending framework that includes nearly $24 million new dollars for the RENT Program plus $12 million new dollars for the RISE Program for direct income support.
That, combined with other additional new sources, puts the City of Austin well over the $40 million dollars in new rental assistance that Central Texas Interfaith has called for. It also includes tens of millions more in financial support for those in need. We look forward to working with the City of Austin and other organizations on implementation of these programs and beginning to look at our longer term economic recovery and workforce strategies.
Group to Austin Leaders: Give $40 Million Cut From Coronavirus Funds to Renters, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Austin Allocating Far Less in Rental Assistance During COVID-19 Crisis Compared to Other Texas Cities, KVUE (Pre-conference) [video] [pdf]
Travis County Approves $10M for Direct Rental and Mortgage Assistance, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Housing Committee Talks Scaling Rental Assistance Program, Austin Monitor [pdf]