Housing activists across Michigan are celebrating the CDC's decision to ban evictions through the end of the year. Photo via Facebook
Housing activists across Michigan are celebrating the CDC's decision to ban evictions through the end of the year.

The order can help thousands of Michiganders to keep their homes.

LANSING, MI — Activists and tenants celebrated Tuesday after a victory in the fight against pandemic evictions.

Renters, supporters, and organizers with the Lansing Tenants Union gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue near a local Salvation Army to publicly protest the eviction of a local resident. By day’s end, no police showed to carry out the eviction order.

Eviction Defense Update: NO EVICTION TODAY.We had a great turnout this morning despite the cold and the rain – Lansing…

Posted by Lansing Tenants Union on Tuesday, September 8, 2020

In Detroit, a similar rally took place downtown in front of the Spirit of Detroit. Detroit Action, a local grassroots organization, said that city residents’ finances haven’t bounced back from the pandemic yet, making it difficult to pay all bills.

“I work in a plant industry, and the plant shut down,” group member Celestine Sanders told WXYZ Detroit. “So it’s like I have to change careers now.”

Sanders and others like her are now worried about looming eviction during a time when employment and personal health are uncertain.

“I thought I was prepared. And so many people did. But when it actually hit, when COVID hit, and all the changes that came with it—it was like boom now you’re laid off,” said Sanders. “Boom you can’t afford to eat. You can’t afford rent, you know.”

Courts in Michigan have reopened and, while operating more slowly than usual, are processing evictions via Zoom hearings. Detroit Action led the rally against evictions in the city and is asking the moratorium be restored. 

A saving grace for the southeastern Michiganders could be a city landlord compliance ordinance that requires homes or apartments to be up to code before any tenant is evicted.

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Unexpected Assistance

Earlier this week, the CDC announced an eviction ban effective now through the end of the year. People who have lost work during the COVID-19 crisis and are unable to pay their rent or find other housing options are eligible, provided they meet other criteria.

The order came as a surprise to local housing advocates and landlords.

36th District Court Chief Judge McConico called the CDC eviction ban is “quite different” from previously-issued moratoriums by the state and the 36th District Court.

“The moratoriums established by the Governor and the 36th District Court protected all residential tenants from eviction during the applicable moratorium times,” he said to the Free Press. “The CDC’s moratorium only protects a select group of people. And that select group of people has to meet certain requirements and take certain steps to be provided protection from an eviction.”

Local courts will decide how they interpret the order, which could mean that some choose to continue with eviction proceedings while others may not. The order was initially published in the Federal Register on Friday morning. 

“Some courts will stop eviction proceedings altogether; others will continue processing filings depending on how they interpret the order. The outcome, however, is the same. Landlords cannot evict tenants who fill out the declaration until the moratorium expires,” John Nevin, spokesperson for SCAO, said via email to the Detroit Free Press Thursday evening.

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Who’s Eligible?

Michiganders who rent must meet the following criteria:

  • Used their “best efforts” to get all available government assistance for housing. 
  • Income can’t exceed $198,000 for joint filers, or $99,000 for individuals (you could still qualify if you were not required to report any income to the federal government or if you received a stimulus check).
  • Experienced a “substantial loss” of household income, lost wages, were laid off or had “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses, which the order defines as un-reimbursed medical expense that would be more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income in 2020. 
  • Are currently making “best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment” as your circumstance permits, while taking into account other non-discretionary expenses.
  • Would have no other housing options and would be homeless or living in close quarters with other people if evicted.

Visit DetroitEvictionHelp.com and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSHDA) Eviction Diversion Program for more information on assistance options.

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