DALLAS – A federal freeze on most evictions, enacted last year, is slated to expire on July 31, after the Biden government extended the date by a month. The moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September was the only instrument keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and were months behind on their rent.
The landlords have successfully challenged the order in court, arguing that they also had bills to pay. They indicated that tenants could access more than $ 45 billion in federal funds that are used to pay rents and related expenses.
Tenant lawyers say the money was slow to distribute and it would take more time to distribute and repay the landlords. Without an extension, they feared an increase in evictions and lawsuits to expel tenants who are in arrears with their rent.
According to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, around 3.2 million people in the US said on June 7th that they would face eviction within the next two months. The bi-weekly survey measures the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic through online responses from a representative sample of US households.
Here is the situation in Texas:
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE EVACATION MORATORIES IN THE STATE?
The Texas Supreme Court suspended the trials of most eviction cases in the state in March 2020, but resumed about two months later.
After the CDC’s moratorium was enacted, the court issued an order instructing judges to hear eviction cases to ensure the moratorium was adhered to. But at the end of March the court dropped that language.
WHAT IS DONE TO HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE CLEARING?
Federal funds have flowed to Texas to help tenants qualify to pay their rent. And lawyers groups from across the state have mobilized to represent tenants in court.
As the pandemic started, several major cities in the state created their own rent reduction programs, reallocated money and used reserves, said Christina Rosales, assistant director of Texas Housers, a nonprofit that focuses on housing issues. Since then, about $ 3.5 billion in US Treasury funds has been distributed to the state and dozen of cities and counties to help tenants, she said.
The state’s Texas Rent Relief Program distributes more than $ 1 billion. As of Thursday, it had paid out more than $ 487 million or was about to help more than 78,000 households.
Some cities, including Dallas and Austin, offer additional protection for renters.
How do the courts handle eviction hearings?
After the state Supreme Court removed the language from its CDC moratorium order in late March, tenant lawyers say compliance varies from court to court.
“It’s now become a patchwork of enforcement in the state of Texas,” said Nelson Mock, an attorney at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. “And some courts enforce federal law, some courts don’t enforce federal law.”
HOW CHEAP IS A HOUSE IN THE MAJOR RENTAL MARKETS IN THE STATE?
There is a shortage of affordable and available rental housing for extremely low-income households across Texas, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And rent increases are being seen in major Texas cities, according to the latest figures from Realtor.com. According to the website, the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Austin was $ 1,300 in May, up 8.7% from the previous year. In Dallas, that number was $ 1,230, up 9.3%.
ARE EXPECTED Evictions That Will Increase Homelessness?
Eviction cases are expected to increase once the CDC moratorium ends, and tenant proponents say homelessness could also increase.
“I think there is no question that homelessness will increase without other protective measures,” said Mock. “I think in every major city in Texas, housing is very expensive and affordable housing is very, very limited.”
In January, an annual homeless census in the Houston area found that approx. 15% of the respondents said they had no permanent address because of the pandemic.
Recent census data showed that 159,828 Texas residents believed they were very likely to be evicted within two months, while another 134,686 believed it was more likely.
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