Opinion: Austin to Let Landlords Loose on Tenants in Eviction Frenzy

By Edwin Pierce

Texas state and local government have always cared for landowners, private businesses, and the rich, while neglecting and even brutalizing the poor and working class. Since the lockdown of the Texas economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state has shown only meager compassion to the masses who are most vulnerable to the crisis – which the national U.S. government failed to prevent. It should surprise no one, then, that the state will relinquish its ban on evictions by landlords who are itching to take revenge on their tenants for not paying during these past few months.

The hold on eviction notices issued by the Texas Supreme Court which took effect in and have been extended since March of this year will expire on July 25, 2020. Building and Strengthening Tenant Action, an Austin non-profit, has stated that first wave of evictions in Austin will happen at that time. Landlords will have the go-ahead to move against those who have not been able to pay rent since the stay-at-home orders have been issued. Politicians have merely decided to delay harm against people who have been laid-off, fired, and furloughed without pay.

The state is already ramping up the machinery to assist in these reprisals against people who have fallen victim to the fallout of the pandemic. It is already opening up the eviction courts which are awaiting the orders of self-interested landlords. These landlords do not care who gets hurt, who loses their home, or whose credit is ruined. Some are already illegally issuing notices to vacate. If they cannot take money from you, they will ruin you, and the law is there to help them in doing so.

For the state to assist and approve of evictions at this time is unconscionable. Hundreds of thousands of people in Austin have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own as a result of the pandemic. The unemployment rate in Austin has jumped to 11.4% in May from 2.6% in February – the month before the stay-at-home orders went into effect. Politicians are trying to preserve the old way of politics in spite of a spectacular economic and health crisis, where no exception can be made for those who make the rich their wealth – the cooks, the laundry attendants, the construction workers, the waiters, the drivers, the warehouse assemblers, the housekeepers… etc.

Yet, now is not the time to despair.  Non-profits who only soften the harm of state repression cannot be relied on to prevent evictions, neither can careerist politicians. Those who are facing the threat of eviction can unite with their neighbors and join in eviction defense. In Austin, the anti-gentrification organization Defend Our Hoodz (DOH) is organizing resistance to evictions. Gathering with neighbors at the homes of those facing these threats and demanding that landlords not evict can be an effective method in stopping the violent removal of individuals from their homes. So many are facing this threat right now that they constitute an overwhelming and powerful number. Go to your neighbor’s aid so that they will come to yours.