for rent stock image san antonio texas
For rent stock image. Photo by Andrea Moreno | Heron contributor

Let's get one thing straight first:

The city's housing assistance fund, which has helped nearly 15,000 San Antonio families stay sheltered during the pandemic, is almost out of money.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control has imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium through the end of the year,

If there's one aspect to massive effort by the City of San Antonio to prevent its citizens from becoming evicted during the pandemic, it's that the emergency relief program, from a technical aspect, was about keeping—not the landlord whole—but the banks.

Just before the weekend started, Bexar County amended an executive order putting a temporary moratorium on evictions.

The order was issued Friday.

PP what it says
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which said what?

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order's impact on local emergency assistance

emergency assistance

need more money — 

landlord response

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cosa response

Heron Editor Ben Olivo can be reached at 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

Aviator at Brooks 8010 Aeromedical Rd, taken, July 25 for stock photo SA Heron.
In a nonbinding opinion, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday that local governments can't delay or ban eviction proceedings, even under emergency declarations during crises like the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Andrea Moreno | Heron contributor

By Juan Pablo Garnham, The Texas Tribune

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton advised Friday that local Texas governments' attempts to delay evictions for renters grappling with the COVID-19 recession amounted to rewriting state law — something they can't do, he said in nonbinding legal guidance.

“While local officials do possess certain emergency powers ... statewide eviction procedures far exceed the requirement that those powers be exercised 'on an appropriate local scale,'” Paxton said in a letter. “Government Code does not authorize local governmental entities operating under a declared disaster to independently rewrite state law as it applies to their jurisdiction to prohibit, delay, or restrict the issuance of a notice to vacate.”

Paxton’s letter, issued in response to a question from Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton of Conroe, seems to chide local officials like Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who last month extended the eviction moratorium in the city until Sept. 30. Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe extended his ban until the same date. In other counties, like Harris and Dallas, some justices of the peace have decided to not hear evictions. It is unclear if Paxton’s opinion will influence those judges.

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Adler said in a statement that his orders were lawful and “do not amend statewide eviction procedures,” but rather aim to "reduce person-to-person contact to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Hector Nieto, a spokesperson for Travis County, said officials there are reviewing the opinion.

Paxton's opinion could have weight if someone were to sue a local government over its eviction moratorium.

“I can’t say I’m shocked that the state attorney general would side with landlords. Nothing he has done to date shows us that we could expect something different,” said Sandy Rollins, executive director of the housing advocacy group Texas Tenants Union. “A lot of tenants are facing eviction in Texas by zero fault of their own, and putting protections that are normal in almost every other state should be allowed in this pandemic.”

According to CityLab, 39% of renters in Texas weren’t certain they could pay their rent in August, but most eviction moratoriums enacted during the pandemic's initial blow to the economy have expired. That includes moratoriums at national, state, county and city levels. The Texas Supreme Court lifted its statewide moratorium in mid-May. A provision included in the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which delayed evictions for tenants of federally backed housing, expired in late July.

“We think that it is really important that there is a consistent process, and we think that this opinion supports our thoughts the local ordinances were beyond city authority,” said David Mintz, vice president of government affairs for the Texas Apartment Association. “As we’ve done throughout, we will continue to work with our members so that they do as much as they can to avoid evictions, and we still think that the biggest need is rental assistance to help people that need it.”

Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman, has been a financial supporter of the Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article is republished with permission from The Texas Tribune. Read the original post here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Housing file art San Antonio Texas. By Gonzalo Pozo | Heron contributor
GONZALO E. POZO | SPECIAL TO THE HERON

The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Thursday requiring landlords and property managers to provide a document called a "notice of tenant's rights" to tenants they want to evict, a measure they hope will curb evictions locally during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

The notice informs renters of their rights within the eviction process, provides them a list of resources, including San Antonio's Covid-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program, and urges renters and landlords to resolve the dispute through a payment plan before both sides have to appear in court. Landlords who do not comply face a fine up to $500, and can be given multiple citations.

[ Read the Notice of Tenant's Rights ]

The ordinance comes as eviction cases in Bexar County are beginning to return to their pre-Covid-19 totals after a moratorium expired at the end of May and the five justice of the peace courts gradually resumed court proceedings in recent weeks.

Bexar County eviction lawsuit totals

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Source: Bexar County Justice of the Peace

NEED ASSISTANCE?
» To apply for the City of San Antonio's emergency housing assistance program, click here or call 210-207-5910 or 311. You can also call the Guadalupe Community Center at 210-226-6178
» More info on the housing assistance program
» To ask about Bexar County's temporary rental assistance measure, call 210-940-1180
» Find out if your property is protected from eviction under the CARES Act, visit covid19.sanantonio.gov.
» To ask about the city's right to counsel program, call 210-212-3702.
» Call the St. Mary's University hotline at 210-570-6135 if you need legal advice.
» Browse other housing resources

When a landlord wants to evict a tenant, they issue them a "notice to vacate" for non-payment of rent, the first step in the weeks-long eviction process. Landlords then have three days before they can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant, according Texas law. Even then, it will be a few weeks before both sides must appear in court. Some tenants, however, interpret the initial notice to vacate to mean they themselves must vacate the premises. The ordinance passed Thursday is intended to clear up the confusion.

The ordinance has been crafted by housing advocates, including COPS Metro, and landlord groups, including the San Antonio Apartment Association.

District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño has been the most vocal on the City Council regarding the rights of renters. Last month, his "right to cure" ordinance, which would have extended the moratorium in San Antonio potentially to mid-August, was narrowly rejected by the City Council because the majority was warned landlords would sue the city if it passed.

But Treviño first floated the concept of a notice of tenant's rights last year, when he advocated on behalf of San Antonio Housing Authority residents during their fight to change the agency's eviction policy, and earlier this year, when the councilman began the formation of a renters commission with a series of community meetings.

"There is not a silver bullet for affordable housing and evictions," Treviño said Thursday during the meeting. "It's important that the community, elected leaders and public administrators work together to develop a patchwork of diverse policies and programs which help the most underserved renters and families."

Kim Bragman, the 2020 chairman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors, echoed some of Treviño sentiments.

"We are encouraged by the legislation to establish clearer lines of communication that advances dialogue and aims at working with tenants to avoid evictions," Bragman said.

City officials have ramped up additional efforts to prevent evictions from spiking during the outbreak.

On July 1, the city will open three housing and financial recovery resource centers, that will include services and counseling for people facing eviction, as well as small businesses, people seeking benefits, and others impacted by Covid-19. Locations are:

» Central Library, 600 Soledad St.
» Claude Black Community Center, 2805 E. Commerce St.
» The Neighborhood Place, 3014 Rivas St.

City officials have also been present at the four justice of the peace precincts, offering resources to those facing eviction. However, some judges this week told the Heron that in-person hearings may be sidelined starting next week, as Covid-19 cases continue to spike, presumably switching to virtual hearings only.

Related
» Eviction court in Bexar County to resume later this month
» Downtown economy struggles to return to the new norm, much less the normal norm
» Property owners asked to file appraisal protests online amid Covid-19
» City Council narrowly rejects proposal to give renters 60 extra days to pay overdue rent
» San Antonio Housing Authority chips in $350K for rental assistance
» Cost of living assistance balloons to $30M locally amid coronavirus
» A commission of renters? In San Antonio, the debate rages early on
» Landlords asked to forgive 25% rent for tenants impacted by coronavirus
» Map: Where to pick up free breakfast and lunch while schools are closed for coronavirus
» How San Antonio’s taquerias are hurting during coronavirus outbreak
» Retailers close in compliance with coronavirus order, leaving downtown nearly lifeless
» Looking back: The week downtown San Antonio became a ghost town

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Heron Editor Ben Olivo can be reached at 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

FOLO MEDIA FILE PHOTO

By Juan Pablo Garnham | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Supreme Court extended the moratorium on eviction procedures until May 18, offering a few more weeks of relief to renters otherwise expected to cough up payments at the beginning of the month.

Trials, hearings and other procedures are suspended, but landlords could file for an eviction, according to the order.

The federal government has also halted evictions until August 23 for properties that are covered by federally backed mortgages. Local authorities have placed similar and sometimes stronger actions to stop evictions, as unemployment claims escalate and reach historic highs in Texas. In just a five-week span during March and April, 1,301,441 Texans applied for unemployment insurance, more than all of 2019. Previous to the crisis, housing affordability was already becoming a larger problem for thousands of low-income Texans.

Despite the orders to block evictions, some landlords have still reportedly forced tenants out. On Monday, around 50 residents of an apartment complex in Olmos Park, north of downtown San Antonio, were locked out of their homes, TV station KSAT reported. According to the Texas Property Code, locking out a tenant without an eviction procedure is illegal.

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“This is the first flagrant violation we had of this, and we've asked the district attorney and other law enforcement to look into it and see what options we have against the company who did that,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said to KSAT.

Texas Public Radio later reported that the "property manager said only 18 people had been locked out, and that most were suspected of selling drugs or were late on rent for as far back as February."

On Tuesday, Judge Rogelio Lopez extended the eviction moratorium for Bexar County until June 1.

[ Have you been furloughed or let go from your job because of coronavirus? We'd like to interview you for a potential article. Email us. ]

Advocates said the extension by the Texas Supreme Court is “a common sense measure,” but warned that they are concerned about the long-term safety of vulnerable Texans.

“Our state and cities should not stop there,” said Christina Rosales, deputy director of the advocacy group Texas Housers in an email. “We have to make sure that cities and the state are providing protections for renters, such as an opportunity to catch up on back-rent, and citations for landlords who are breaking the law by locking out tenants during this time.”

The state orders don't suspend rent payments, and Rosales said that officials need to plan for what might happen when the moratorium is lifted.

“We have to make sure there's enough emergency aid to avoid the financial shock of two or three months of rent due all at once in order to keep people in their homes,” Rosales said.

Experts recommend calling 311 or local legal aid institutions to find if state or local protections apply to specific tenants.

Related
» Cost of living assistance balloons to $30M locally amid coronavirus
» Groceries, gas among expenses San Antonio will cover during COVID-19 crisis
» As eviction lawsuits dwindle, tenants may get 60 extra days to resolve overdue rent during coronavirus crisis
» Number of people seeking housing assistance in San Antonio soared 6,700% last two weeks
» Landlords asked to forgive 25% rent for tenants impacted by coronavirus
» Evictions, property tax foreclosures in Bexar County suspended due to COVID-19 concerns
» Map: Where to pick up free breakfast and lunch while schools are closed for coronavirus
» How San Antonio’s taquerias are hurting during coronavirus outbreak
» Retailers close in compliance with coronavirus order, leaving downtown nearly lifeless
» Looking back: The week downtown San Antonio became a ghost town

This article is republished with permission from The Texas Tribune. Read the original post here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Experts are concerned for the short- and long-term housing stability of the 1.7 million renters in Texas. Folo Media file photo

By Juan Pablo Garnham | The Texas Tribune

Texans living in more than 8,800 rental properties can now find out if they are protected from eviction proceedings and financial penalties for not paying housing costs as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy. The National Low Income Housing Coalition launched a new searchable database that lets people check whether a federal moratorium on certain penalties, which lasts until Aug. 23, applies to where they live.

Experts are concerned for the short- and long-term housing stability of the 1.7 million renters in the state. More than 1 million Texans have applied for unemployment insurance since mid-March, and a slowdown in the economy might make it harder for people to pay for housing, which was already too expensive for many low-income Texans.

“If you are a tenant and you are concerned about paying rent for the next couple of months, the database would be able to show if you're protected from displacement by law,” said Christina Rosales, deputy director of the advocacy group Texas Housers. “That is an important measure for someone who is experiencing the trauma of the pandemic and the stresses of trying to make ends meet.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which provided $2 trillion in aid, included a 120-day moratorium on eviction filings on renters in homes covered by federally backed mortgages. After that period, a landlord still has to provide 30 days' notice before residents must vacate the property, which would give tenants in these properties protections until Aug. 23.

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The National Low Income Housing Coalition's website allows people to search by ZIP code, by city and through a map for specific addresses. It includes multifamily properties of five or more rental units, but it doesn't include smaller buildings covered by the moratorium because federal housing institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “do not make complete data available,” according to Andrew Aurand, vice president for research of the coalition.

Aurand said some renters “may still be covered even if their property is not in the database” and advised them to ask landlords or search property records to find out if the building’s mortgage is backed by federal institutions, like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration.

Even if a property does not benefit from these programs, a tenant might still be protected through state, county or city moratoriums, which the database doesn’t take in account. In Texas, the state Supreme Court has halted most eviction proceedings until April 30.

Texas advocates recommend calling 311 or local legal aid institutions to find which state or local protections apply.

“What we are seeing is that people are being intimidated by landlords, and they're being told that they're going to face eviction for nonpayment. And that's just across the state,” Rosales said.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is pressing legislators to expand protections for renters.

“The next COVID-19 spending package should include a uniform national moratorium on evictions and $100 billion in rental assistance to preserve affordable housing and prevent low-income renters from falling off a financial cliff when the moratoria are lifted,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the coalition.

[ Have you been furloughed or let go from your job because of coronavirus? We'd like to interview you for a potential article. Email us. ]

Related
» Groceries, gas among expenses San Antonio will cover during COVID-19 crisis
» As eviction lawsuits dwindle, tenants may get 60 extra days to resolve overdue rent during coronavirus crisis
» Number of people seeking housing assistance in San Antonio soared 6,700% last two weeks
» Landlords asked to forgive 25% rent for tenants impacted by coronavirus
» Evictions, property tax foreclosures in Bexar County suspended due to COVID-19 concerns
» Map: Where to pick up free breakfast and lunch while schools are closed for coronavirus
» How San Antonio’s taquerias are hurting during coronavirus outbreak
» Retailers close in compliance with coronavirus order, leaving downtown nearly lifeless
» Looking back: The week downtown San Antonio became a ghost town

This article is republished with permission from The Texas Tribune. Read the original post here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

The San Antonio Housing Authority has suspended evictions at its properties, including the Alazan-Apache Courts. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

This post has been updated at 9:36 p.m. Thursday.

On Wednesday morning, Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti announced that property tax foreclosure sales will be canceled for the month of April and May amid the COVID-19 outbreak. He said his office is considering halting mortgage foreclosure sales in April and May, as well.

"We also understand that home evictions can be catastrophic at any time, but especially right now," Uresti said.

Foreclosure sales are typically held on the first Tuesday of the month at the Bexar County Courthouse.

On Monday, the Bexar County Justices of the Peace suspended eviction court proceedings through April 16. According to the order, the judges may extend the suspension depending on how the coronavirus pandemic plays out locally.

The JP courts will remain open, hearing other types of cases, while accepting case filings, among other services.

The edicts come after Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, in a separate declaration on Friday, ordered property owners to suspend evictions for at least 30 days.

Later Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages to be suspended, as well as public housing evictions.

In San Antonio, workers are beginning to take a financial hit as the service industry becomes paralyzed by recommendations from public officials for people to practice social distancing. Many downtown establishments have cut employee hours. Others have closed completely.

[ Read Judge Nelson Wolff's Declaration of Public Health Emergency ]

[ Read the City of San Antonio's latest COVID-19 public health updates ]

[ COVID-19 Prevention in Bexar County ]

[ San Antonio Housing Authority coronavirus updates ]

On Monday, the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) announced it was suspending non-criminal evictions until further notice. The agency has also halted lease violations and notices to vacate, which are some of the steps that result in eviction court.

Leticia Sanchez, a member of the Historic Westside Resident Association, which has worked with public housing residents to fight evictions against SAHA, welcomed the moratorium.

"They're still fighting other issues," Sanchez said. "Right now, for the tenants' union, their biggest concern is security at the SAHA properties. But, I mean, the fact that they don't have to worry about evictions at this time is one less worry for them. That is good."

Sanchez added reaction from the entire San Antonio community is putting a strain on families living in poverty.

"I think the lack of food available at the local grocery stores, that's been their concern," Sanchez said. "They were happy to hear the schools were going to be providing food for the kids while the kids are out."

The San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR), which has criticized an effort by District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño to form a tenants commission,, struck a neutral tone in its response to the county's measures. A commission of renters, SABOR says, adds another layer of bureaucracy at a time when San Antonio housing officials are trying to streamline the system.

"This latest directive is something we will discuss with our members so that they may best understand how it may affect the property owners and their own financial obligations," Kim Bragman, SABOR's 2020 Chairman of the Board, said in a statement. "However, we are sympathetic to the needs of the renters, as well. This is obviously a unique situation and inevitably there are extraordinary burdens on everyone right now."

Nationwide, other cities have suspended evictions in light of COVID-19, including New York and Los Angeles.

Contact Ben Olivo at 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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