The CDC eviction moratorium has been dismissed in lower than 10% of circumstances in Saskatoon courts – Saskatoon Public Media

Protesters march outside a Saskatoon courthouse on August 21, where evictions continue despite a recent moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Like many Saskatoonians still suffering from pandemic-related unemployment, Ben Abell is having a difficult year.

First, he lost his job in oil and gas. Then he and his partner broke up and he had to move out. He is optimistic about finding a new job. And right now he’s surfing on the couch.

“I was downgraded from full-time to part-time, which I was specifically told it wasn’t performance-related, and I got it. It was what it was. Work slowed down,” Abell said, just dried up. “

His ex just lost her job this week. He has no idea how to pay the $ 1,500 rent for her and her three children next month.

Abell recently attended a rally outside Saskatoon City Hall calling on Mayor Sylvester Turner to stop evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. because courts in the Saskatoon area still hear hundreds of cases every week, despite a CDC federal ordinance in place since September.

Abell is not alone. In November, only the first renter in New York City since the pandemic began was officially evicted. By then, thousands of Saskatoonians – many of whom had been affected by COVID-19 – had lost their homes in the six months since the Texas Supreme Court allowed the evictions to resume in May.

And while Congress is considering extending the CDC’s national eviction moratorium, it is unclear what limited impact that extension could have on people on the verge of eviction in the Saskatoon area.

According to January advisors, the CDC ordinance has stopped only 9.6% of Harris County’s eviction cases since the national moratorium went into effect. That means 9,386 evictions have not been halted by the order, out of a total of 10,383 eviction cases negotiated in Harris County since September.

Landlords have also submitted no fewer eviction cases under the moratorium. Indeed the numbers are high. Landlords filed 6,814 evictions in the three months leading up to the ruling on September 4, compared to 7,230 in the previous three months while the CDC moratorium was in place.

Judge Lincoln Goodwin – one of 16 Harris County’s justices of the peace – regularly calls 60-70 eviction cases at a time, making social distancing impossible. He and his staff do not wear face masks in the courtroom.

In a letter last week, Saskatoon Housing attorneys Chrishelle Palay of the HOME Coalition and Celesté Arredondo-Peterson of the Texas Organizing Project said the CDC appointment “full of false hopes, flaws and loopholes that do not really protect all tenants. ”

But outside of Saskatoon, not all Texas renters have to rely solely on the CDC for protection.

The city of Austin banned almost all eviction requests since March, along with a 60-day grace period giving tenants more time to catch up. Austin has had approximately 725 evictions since the pandemic began, compared to more than 18,000 Saskatoon evictions where Mayor Turner failed to pass evacuation protection, according to Princeton University’s evacuation lab.

When asked last week whether Turner was considering a local moratorium, the mayor’s office replied, “Mayor Turner is doing everything he can.”

Turner has asked the CDC to extend their eviction moratorium, and he has written a letter to the Texas Supreme Court asking for a 90-day stay of eviction negotiations.

“That’s the bare minimum,” said Celesté Arredondo-Peterson, Housing Director at the Texas Organizing Project. “He’s not a hero when it comes to writing a letter. We’re in the midst of the biggest economic downturn of our lives. He has real power to do a lot more. And it’s a moral failure on his part that he.” refused to do so. ” . ”

Arredondo-Peterson is a member of Harris County’s COVID-19 Housing Stability Task Force. The city of Saskatoon was previously part of the task force as well, but Turner left the group after recommending an eviction period he had set refused to examine.

“He was a lackluster Democratic mayor, and the fact that he’s allowed to drive as a progressive nationally is ridiculous and worrying,” said Arredondo-Peterson.

Many members of the Saskatoon City Council have said You would support a measure Give tenants more time to catch up during the pandemic if the mayor puts this on the agenda.

Tiffany Thomas, chair of the city council’s Housing Committee, recently declined to be interviewed to discuss a local moratorium in Saskatoon.

Arredondo-Peterson said it would not be surprising if members of the Saskatoon city council did not enjoy talking about a controversial topic, since unlike most other cities in Texas, Saskatoon has a strong mayoral form of government.

“There are few avenues you can take against the Saskatoon city council,” said Arredondo-Peterson. “One of them speaks honestly and openly to the press and then never gets anything you want from the mayor. Or he doesn’t speak openly to the press because he knows that you are really there to deliver for your constituents – and usually the best way. ” To do that means bowing your head, reconciling yourself with the mayor and getting on your knees and asking him to give you what you need to deliver for your district. And I think there is a real fundamental problem with our government and the way this is going on in Saskatoon. ”

Meanwhile, Turner isn’t the only one calling on the state’s Supreme Court to reconsider evictions.

A Recent study Researchers from UCLA, Johns Hopkins University, and other public health institutions found that Texas could have prevented about 4,500 deaths had the state court not done so lifted his moratorium back in May.

In an interview with Saskatoon Public Media, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht said he hadn’t seen the study, but it sounded “pretty wrong”.

Hecht added that the court had not suspended the evictions in the past seven months as it believed it was up to other branches of government to address the issue.

“The reason there is no nationwide moratorium is that we continue to rely on the federal moratorium and local jurisdictions,” said Hecht.

That is, while local officials like Turner point to the state Supreme Court to stop the evictions, the chief judge points to the governor’s office.

“Of course, we only looked at evictions from the perspective of how this would affect the justice system,” said Hecht. “We haven’t consulted with health officials.” I think we would see this more as an executive responsibility. “

Listen to the in-depth interview with Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Nathan Hecht, aired on Saskatoon Matters.

In place of a moratorium, the Texas Supreme Court has set up an eviction diversion program – basically a rent relief fund that pays landlords back rent for up to six months.

The program started in October, but it is unclear whether any money was actually released to landlords in Harris County. Hecht said the program got off to a slow start but should be fully functional by February 1.

But Dana Karni, a Saskatoon attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid, said the program is a catch 22 – renters can only get help if their landlord files the eviction, which landlords shouldn’t do if the tenant is under the protection the tenant is protected CDC order.

In addition, the eviction itself could negatively affect a tenant’s ability to find accommodation in the future.

“It is a farce to ask for litigation and then call a diversion program,” Karni said. “This is not a distraction program – this is an invitation to the trial program.”

Currently, only a small fraction of tenants in the Saskatoon area have a lawyer to represent them in an eviction case – around 5%. In response to the pandemic, Harris County Commissioners Court earlier this year approved funding to bolster evacuation defenses, but Karni said the organizations did not actually receive the money, despite the conversation going on since the summer.

“Based on recommendations that the Task Force on Housing Stability has not yet made, not a single cent I know of has been used to finance legal representation,” said Karni.

Meanwhile, less than the half Harris County’s rent relief funding had not been drawn until last week. Because of the way the county’s aid program was designed, most of the money was only available to tenants whose landlords agreed to participate.

“These millions of dollars that are still on the table underscore the fact that so many landlords have declined rent relief in favor of eviction,” said Karni.

Congress is also reportedly considering an aid package that will include a $ 600 stimulus check for each adult and child, while the January advisors said the median amount owed in the eviction court is around $ 1,900 .

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