"It's Past Due" - VOICE's Campaign to Prevent Evictions in a Time of Plague
Next Steps - What Can You Do to Prevent Evictions?
To prevent eviction, we need to demonstrate enough POWER to create change. Here are some concrete steps you can take:
1 - Let the Governor know an eviction moratorium is Past Due by sending VOICE's letter to the Governor by clicking here
2- Get others to Sign on too-- including other clergy, Bishops, small business owners, CEO’s, principals, etc.
3- Join VOICE in building relational power to prevent evictions. Attend a VOICE training to learn more about these issues and concrete actions you can take. -
Training dates will be posted here and on the main VOICE website
Governor, just like the rent, bold action to address this eviction tsunami, is Past Due.
VOICE calls on Governor Northam to use his powers as outlined by Attorney General Herring to impose an eviction moratorium until at least the end of August or a special General Assembly session, whichever comes earlier, to ensure the estimated 550,000 mostly African American and Latinx families are not evicted.
To ensure these families are not removed from their homes, the following standards must be met before eviction hearings proceed -
RENTERS CAN RECEIVE RENT RELIEFA) Renters know about the program. Currently, most do not. Three week period for state, localities and others to do a full out campaign to get out the word to renters via multi-language press and radio and other means. VOICE will get the word out via our member institutions, school partners & others in NOVA and the Shenandoah Valley, as well as throughout the state with the help of our state Bishops and denominational leaders.
B) Renters can get through to their local offices to access the state’s rent relief program. Currently, this is often unreliable depending on location and time of day. VOICE understands that all programs need time to hire and train staff to meet the demand, but it takes time to do so.
C) Renters can receive rent relief money BEFORE their day in court. Over the first two weeks of the state’s rent relief program, approximately 300 low-income tenants or homeowners throughout Virginia have received financial assistance out of the 550,000 to one million Virginians who are calculated to need it. This is critical for two reasons-- 1) 60% of tenants nationally self-evict because they do not know their rights or are fearful. These cases do not go to court. AND 2) Currently, the state protections under HB340 to ensure renters impacted by COVID 19 are not evicted are not being followed throughout the state by District Judges.
SAFEGUARDS ARE IN PLACE SO LANDLORDS CANNOT EVICT PEOPLE WHO ARE PROTECTED UNDER THE LAW. Currently, this is not happening. (See General Herring’s legal opinion here)
A) Federal protections under the CARES Act state that landlords in buildings with Freddie Mae or Freddie Mac loans may not be evicted through August. Currently, landlords with these loans are attempting to evict renters. Even worse, the renter is the person who must know and prove they are protected.
B) State protection under HB340. Currently, HB340 is being interpreted incorrectly by some District Judges which results in some renters being evicted wrongfully. On April 22, 2020, the General Assembly passed as an emergency House Bill. House Bill 340 extends a right to a continuance of unlawful detainers to tenants“affected by” COVID-19 who are sued for nonpayment of rent due during the State of Emergency Due to COVID-19 declared by Executive Order 51 on March 12. Affected by means to experience a loss of income from a public or private source due COVID-19 and the ability to prove (that she is not currently receiving wages or payments from a public or private source as a result of the State of Emergency).
At the beginning of the COVID outbreak VOICE conducted a listening campaign throughout our region to better understand how the pandemic was affecting our community. VOICE had conversations with over 2,000 people, mainly parents in Title 1 schools, tenants living in affordable housing buildings, and members within VOICE’s own member institutions.
The number one issue that emerged was the fear of eviction. Since that time, VOICE has sprung into action and achieved the following victories.
- Created political space for a temporary eviction moratorium that impacted approximately 50,000-100,000 mostly Black and Brown low-income renters. VOICE leaders met key key state officials, US Senators officials, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons.
- Fought for $50 million initial investment from the state for its rental relief program, with the goal of winning hundreds of millions more over the coming months to address the huge scope of the eviction crisis.
- In public housing in Alexandria VOICE tenant and clergy leaders reached an agreement with the public housing authority that there would be no evictions until at least March 2021.This may be the only agreement of its kind in the country; it was organized by VOICE public housing tenants who have a strong record of organizing and doing effective nonpartisan Get-Out-the-Vote work.
- Worked with the VA Attorney General to stop illegal evictions. Landlords were still sending threatening eviction letters even during the eviction moratorium. VOICE leaders worked to stop this in individual buildings and by working with Attorney General Herring who sent a letter to the national association of apartment owners