Group protests to get extension of eviction moratorium in Detroit
About 50 people protested outside the 36th District Courthouse in downtown Detroit on Monday, demanding an end to evictions and extension of a moratorium in the city, as eviction hearings began inside with the weekend’s expiration of the previous stay.
The group, organized by Detroit Eviction Defense, demanded that all evictions in Detroit and Michigan be banned until at least 60 days after the extended state of emergency – Sept. 4 – in order to keep residents in their homes during the ongoing pandemic.
“What we’re looking at is a potential tsunami of evictions hitting a city in the midst of a public health crisis, which is just sort of a perfect storm of disaster not only for those individuals that get evicted, but the economic stability of the city and the stability of its neighborhoods,” said Joe McGuire, an organizer with the Detroit Eviction Defense.
The 36th District Court’s moratorium on residential evictions ended Saturday at 11:59 p.m. after being extended to implement eviction diversion programs. A state moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment expired July 16.
“We will not see a wave of evictions tomorrow or the next day,” Alexa Eisenberg, an organizer with Detroit Renter City, told the crowd. “We will see a long tidal wave of evictions to crash and we need to stay vigilant against that.”
More: Detroit’s eviction moratorium ends Saturday night: What tenants should know
More: New Michigan unemployment claims drop to lowest levels since early on in pandemic
The 36th District Court estimates a backlog of about 900 cases and expects to hold hearings for 200 to 300 cases that were not already resolved, Chief Judge William McConico said last week.
Hearings began Monday and will be held virtually, unless residents are unable to access the internet or a phone.
The state estimated a backlog of 75,000 eviction filings. It implemented a $50 million Eviction Diversion Program last month to help landlords and tenants. Under the program, landlords can opt in and receive up to 90% of a tenant’s back rent paid in a lump sum. How much they receive will depend on a tenant’s income. Landlords are required to forgive late fees and penalties and up to 10% of the COVID-related amount owed after March 1.
Statewide filings this year have started to increase but remain less than the year before, although not all courts have reported yet, according to the State Court Administrative Office.
Tristan Taylor, a leader organizer with Detroit Will Breathe, said the tenant advocacy groups are fighting to avoid evictions from taking place at all.
“We win when we are able to stop evictions from happening in the first place. We don’t want to just wait until the Dumpsters come out,” he said. “The question is what can we do now to make sure that they don’t feel like they can do that.”
McConico said last week that the court does not plan to extend its moratorium unless a similar action takes place at the state or federal level, adding that resources like free legal representation, relocation assistance, utilities assistance and mediation to help tenants and landlords cannot be fully accessed with the moratorium in place.
“The purpose of extending the Court’s moratorium beyond the expiration of the State’s was to allow for more time for newly instituted resources to get rolling,” McConico said in a statement Monday. “Now that these programs are operational, any further moratorium would actually hinder those who need access to these services.”
He said he is “eager to sit down and have a regular dialogue with these groups.”
In front of the court, protesters chanted “no work, no pay, no evictions any day” and held signs demanding housing for all and calls to “shut down eviction court.” They passed around leaflets with instructions to call Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Mayor Mike Duggan and Judge McConico and ask for an extension of the moratorium.
For Detroiters like Quentas Ruffin, 36, the demonstration was personal. He has a family member who is currently facing an eviction.
“You just can’t put people out on the streets and tell them to go fend for themselves. You have t…
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