Texas Courts Could Stop Enforcing CDC Eviction Order
State courts in Texas appear to be backing away from enforcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal moratorium on evictions, potentially allowing “tens of thousands of eviction cases that have been on hold” to move forward, according to a report in National Public Radio. Last week, the CDC announced it was extending the moratorium, which applies to tenants who have suffered financially during the pandemic, through June. But a Texas Supreme Court emergency order that had compelled courts to enforce the federal order recently expired, according to the report. And the Texas Justice Court Training Center, an advisory group, issued guidelines saying that “Courts are no longer authorized by the Texas Supreme Court to abate (put on hold) cases based on the CDC eviction moratorium,” according to the report.
The directive was concerning to tenant advocates and confusing even to landlord groups, according to the report. A representative of the Texas Apartment Association told NPR the group was asking the courts to “clarify their guidance.” Housing advocates have asked the state court system to extend its emergency order, according to the report.
“Renters who are behind on rent are on their own,” Christina Rosales, deputy director of Texas Housers, said, according to NPR. “That’s the message the Texas Supreme Court is sending, and we’re gravely concerned.”
Philadelphia Courts Mandate Diversion Before Evictions
Landlords in Philadelphia will now be required to apply for rental assistance and participate in an eviction diversion program before filing to evict a tenant, according to a report in WHYY. The court order was issued after “hard-fought negotiations between tenant advocates and landlords,” the report says. It requires city landlords to file for rental assistance before moving to evict a tenant, which automatically enrolls them in the diversion program, and then to wait for 45 days before proceeding with the eviction.
The diversion program, as Next City has reported, is based on mediating conflicts between tenants and landlords and seeking to resolve lease and payment issues outside of court. The program has been supported by the city after showing promising results, as Next City reported.
“The idea is that within that 45-day waiting period, the landlord and tenant will have already gone through the eviction diversion program and/or received rental assistance,” WHYY reported. “If a tenant can show that their landlord did not pursue any rental assistance or eviction diversion in a timely manner or in good faith, they have a legitimate defense against eviction.”
The order is current in place through May 16, according to the report. In an editorial, the Philadelphia Inquirer called the order “a game changer.”
“Considering the detrimental harm of evictions, from the court filing to the lockout, for individuals and communities, an eviction filing has to be a tool of last resort — not the first step,” the Inquirer editorial board wrote. “The leadership of Municipal Court deserves much credit for securing a new reality in Philadelphia: one in which an eviction filing can’t be used as a threat, tenants are less likely to lose their home, and landlords are more likely to recover rent.”
Undocumented Immigrants Can Soon Access Public Housing Benefits in Colorado
Colorado is set to become the first state in the country to offer state-funded public housing benefits to its residents regardless of immigration status, according to a report in the Denver Post. The Colorado state legislature approved a bill that would “allow people ‘to apply for, and receive, state-funded public housing assistance regardless of immigration status,’” according to a spokesman for the state Department of Local Affairs, the report said.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis was expected to sign the bill, which could affect “roughly 180,000 people estimated to be living in Colorado without authorization,” according to the Denver Post. As the Post notes, undocumented immigrants in Colorado and other states have been shut out of almost all public benefits, economic relief, and stimulus passed during the pandemic of the last year. The bill would allow undocumented people to access emergency housing relief, but also “all state housing assistance moving forward,” according to the Post. The bill was sponsored by Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate, and one Republican state senator voted with Democrats in favor of the legislation, according to the report.
Victor Galvan, political field director for the group United for a New Economy, told the Denver Post he had been “dreaming of a moment like this for well over a decade.”
“This means that people will be able to plan for emergencies, work with direct service providers at the county, state and city level to be able to plan for moments in which they lose a job and have dug so far into their savings that they can’t afford rent, moments when catastrophe hits and they have nowhere else to go but to the state or the city or county for support,” Glavan told the paper. “Before, that wasn’t possible. Before, it meant expending every other solution.”
This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our twice-weekly Backyard newsletter.
Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.