TEXAS — Renters are preparing for some tough decisions as eviction proceedings resume in Texas. A statewide moratorium during the pandemic has acted as a lifeline for tenants at risk of losing their homes, but this week it has been lifted.
What You Need To Know
- Statewide moratorium on evictions lifted
- Some rentals may qualify for extra protections
- Advocates say policy change is needed
While there are some local protections in place for renters across the state, some advocates fear without significant policy changes there could be another crisis on the horizon.
With record job losses due to the coronavirus, advocates have been busy making sure tenants teetering on the edge of eviction know their rights.
“Folks are really hustling and struggling in trying to identify as many rental assistance streams as possible. Of course, those funds don't go that long way in relation to the need,” Shoshana Krieger, project director of Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA), said.
Some renters may not realize the federally-subsidized housing they live in is protected under the federal economic relief package.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also includes a 120-day pause on evictions for renters in properties backed by federal mortgages and Low Income Housing Tax Credit properties.
BASTA, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, and Texas Housers created a statewide map of properties covered under the CARES Act, but the data is incomplete, especially when it comes to smaller properties.
On Thursday, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance requiring landlords to respond within five days if tenants ask them to disclose whether the property is protected under the federal economic relief bill.
“We become detectives in trying to figure it out,” Krieger said.
For properties without the federal protections, eviction hearings may proceed this week in Texas. But there are several counties, including Travis and Bexar, that have their own moratoriums in place.
The University of Texas at Austin published a list of different protections available in cities and counties.
For example, in Austin city leaders gave renters 60 days to catch up on payments before landlords can proceed with evictions. Council members in San Antonio rejected a similar measure.
“One of the biggest challenges at this moment for tenants and other advocates is figuring out how we are going to make sure that the laws have teeth and how are we going to make sure that tenants are able to actually effectuate their rights,” Krieger said.
Housing advocates fear without stronger protections or rental assistance to match the need, there could be an increase in homelessness considering many major Texas cities already lack affordable housing.
Christina Rosales, the deputy director of Texas Housers, said she believes the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic puts a spotlight on the already boiling housing crisis in the state.
“It is less expensive and more effective to prevent homelessness now. So to prevent evictions and provide rental relief for tenants and landlords— it's cheaper to do that now than to wait until it's intolerable later on,” Rosales said.