Keep Eviction Courts Closed to Keep Our Communities Safe
New Orleans was in the grips of a housing and evictions crisis before COVID-19 struck our community, with 61% of all renters being cost-burdened with rent and an eviction rate double the national average. COVID-19 has ravaged our workforce, pushing many in our communities deeper into poverty and placing them at risk of losing their housing.
As our community begins to recover, we worry that many New Orleans working-class workers and families will be left behind, scrambling to pay mounting bills with resources that were already stretched thin. In order to prevent a wave of evictions, we propose keeping Orleans Parish eviction court closed until August 24th, in line with the federal standards in the CARES Act. The CARES Act prevents landlords with federally backed mortgages from giving eviction notices to their tenants until July 25th, and stipulates that landlords must give a 30-day notice to vacate. This means the earliest day that a landlord can file an eviction in court is August 24th.
Our reasons for this demand are:
(1.) It is estimated that the CARES Act covers renters in 50% - 70% of all rental housing in New Orleans. Renters often do not know if they are protected because they don’t have access to their landlord’s mortgage records. Keeping court closed until the 24th protects all tenants equally, and prevents illegal evictions from moving forward.
(2.) Ensuring that all tenants are equally protected will also reduce stress on our courts, and reduce the paperwork that judges will need to review during cases. Opening eviction courts when the majority of tenants cannot be evicted will cause backlogs and confusion.
(3.) Keeping courts closed in alignment with federal standards means working families in New Orleans will have time to get back to work as our economy slowly re-opens in the coming months.
(4.) We can protect public health by protecting housing security. We all know that the best way to fight the spread of coronavirus is by staying home. We need to keep courts closed to prevent housing insecurity, houselessness, and families having to double up, all of which will keep the virus from spreading further.
This crisis is showing that, more than ever, safe, stable housing is healthcare! If individuals and families are made houseless due to our City’s inaction to protect them, then we are putting their and our health and safety at risk. We need to protect our community!
If you agree, please make your voice heard by e-mailing New Orleans' Judges to ask them to keep eviction courts closed through August 24th.
In community and justice,
The New Orleans Housing Justice Coalition and New Orleans Renters Rights Assembly