Housing in Brief: D.C. Judge Vacates CDC Eviction Order

Plus, Austin voters reinstate a camping ban, and Iowa permits source-of-income discrimination.

Detroit Black Lives Matter activists held an eviction defense rally at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters followed by a march through the city's downtown area calling for police to stop assisting illegal evictions that are disproportionately affect ing Black citizens on April 10, 2021. (Photo by Adam J. Dewey/NurPhoto via AP)

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D.C. Judge Vacates CDC Eviction Order

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it issued a moratorium on evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Washington Post. The ruling would vacate the federal eviction protection, which is currently set to expire on June 30, the Post says. But the Department of Justice is planning to appeal the decision and ask for a stay, which would allow the order to remain in effect while the legal case continues.

The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, is in response to a lawsuit filed by the Alabama Association of Realtors, one of a number of lawsuits filed by property owners challenging the CDC’s authority to impose an eviction moratorium. In March, a judge in Cleveland also ruled that the CDC overstepped its authority, as Next City reported.

“The question for the Court is a narrow one,” Friedrich wrote, according to the Post. “Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”

Landlords and property owners celebrated the ruling and said it vindicated their argument, according to the Post. But housing advocates “argued the new ruling only throws more confusion into an already chaotic policy space,” the report says.

“There are now numerous conflicting court rulings at the district court level, with several judges ruling in favor of the moratorium and several ruling against it,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said on Twitter. “While this latest ruling is written more starkly than previous ones, it likely has equally limited application impacting only the plaintiffs who brought the case or, at most, renters in the district court’s jurisdiction.”

Austin Voters Reinstate Camping Ban

Voters in Austin, Texas, have approved a ballot initiative reinstating criminal penalties for people camping in public spaces in the city, according to the Austin-American Statesman. The ballot proposal, Prop B, was floated after the Austin City Council voted two years ago to repeal a 23-year-old ordinance that banned camping on city streets, according to the report. That decision “sparked a backlash from many Austin residents and business owners, particularly as the city’s unsheltered population seemed to multiply during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the paper says.

Prop B was backed by a political action committee called Save Action Now, co-founded by Matt Mackowiak, the Travis County Republican Party chair, which raised $1.75 million in support of the campaign, the report says. At the final tally, the count was 85,830 votes in favor of reinstating the ban and 64,409 against it, according to the report.

Under the new law, the city will impose penalties “not only for camping but for sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in or near the downtown Austin area or the area around the University of Texas campus,” the report says. Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who opposed Prop B, is working on carrying out a plan to create 3,000 new housing units and shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness in the next three years, the Statesman reported.

“I think people in our city don’t want people sleeping in tents and public spaces,” Adler told the paper. “I think that’s a very widely held desire and we need to make it happen. None of us should ever be comfortable with people having to be in tents in our community.”

Iowa Allows Source of Income Discrimination

Landlords in Iowa are now legally allowed to turn away tenants who use Section 8 housing choice vouchers under a law signed by Governor Kim Reynolds, according to a report in The Hill. The bill bans any cities or counties from passing laws that prevent discrimination based on source of income, the report says, and it overrides existing laws in Des Moines, Iowa City, and Marion. It was approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March, according to the report. The law was backed by landlord groups because of what they say are obstacles within the voucher program, “including additional inspections and challenges with regaining the money spent on repairing damages to properties,” the report says.

Iowa’s new law bucks a trend of cities becoming more explicit in banning source-of-income discrmination, which remains a challenge to mobility for low-income tenants, as Next City has reported. Earlier this year, the Housing Rights Initiative, a nonprofit group in New York, sued 88 landlords and brokerage firms for discriminating against tenants who use vouchers. The Poverty & Race Research Action Council maintains a list of dozens of cities that have banned landlords from discriminating against voucher holders.

Housing advocates and local officials in Iowa opposed the bill, according to The Hill. Marcia Fudge, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has said she will consider suing to overturn the law, according to the report. It is scheduled to take effect in January 2023.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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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.

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Tags: covid-19homelessnessaustinevictionshousing assistancepublic health

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