Bars aren’t the only gathering places in Texas that are now allowed to reopen. The Texas Supreme Court has lifted its temporary stay on evictions proceedings, and North Texas landlords have already clogged the courts with a backlog of some 1,100 petitions.
CBS 11 filed open records requests to obtain the number of eviction petitions filed in local courts during the temporary stay on evictions. According to the station, four courts in Dallas were unable to fulfill the requests because of staffing and remote working issues. The news outlet doesn’t compare the number to the typical volume, but housing advocates fear that with state employment claims nearing the 2 million mark, the rush of evictions will only increase.
That’s troubling because health experts continue to warn that people should stay at home in order to prevent against a new spike in infections. Evicted residents face being removed from their homes and moving in with friends, family, or being forced onto the street. Contact tracing has shown that one positive case of COVID-19 risks spreading the disease to thousands of people.
“This is very disappointing and disheartening at this point,” said Christina Rosales, the deputy director of Texas Housers, an affordable housing advocacy group. “I am very surprised that any human being thinks it’s ok to start the process of displacing another human being.”
The threat of evictions has become a political football as shutdowns over COVID-19 have led to a sudden and sharp economic downturn. Last month, the Dallas City Council passed an ordinance that offers financial assistance to residents who cannot pay their rent or mortgage and gives Dallas residents affected by COVID-19 60 days to catch up on rent before an landlord can begin evictions proceedings. That came after the council and mayor tussled over how to best push forward an evictions ordinance during a state of emergency.
The county previously suspended eviction hearings and placed a cap on the late fees landlords could charge past-due tenants. In late March, the state suspended eviction proceedings and debt collection through May 18. But now that the governor has decided to reopen the state, those protections have been lifted.