Published on April 9, 2020 at 6:54 pm
BY LAUREN GOODMAN
AUSTIN, Texas — Austin City Council approved an emergency 60-day suspension of evictions and utility shut-offs on homes and businesses in a meeting on March 26 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council members practiced social distancing as some sat six feet apart at Austin City Hall while others attended via videoconference. They discussed the various impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on the city and its residents. Dozens of citizens teleconferenced into the meeting to share their support for halting rent payments and many shared the financial difficulties they have faced.
“Austinites have seen their income shrink or... disappear,” Austinite Craig Bassett said. “Much of our population has a crushing decision... do I pay my rent or feed my family and face eviction?”
TXP, Inc., an economic analysis consulting firm, reported to the council Tuesday that job losses in Austin are projected to be 25.4% within the next few months.
Austinite Lily Paloma said she has already lost two of her three jobs and that the temporary cease in rent isn’t enough.
“If we can't pay in April, we will not be able to pay in May and certainly not in June,” Paloma said. “We will have an eviction crisis on our hands.”
Council member Ann Kitchen co-sponsored the ordinance but she said she does not support a rent freeze.
“This is limited to a deferral... for when rent is due,” Kitchen said. “That's the action that we need to take... (landlords) depend upon this rent as their means for existence.”
The city council is preparing to take more measures to provide aid to residents who have lost their jobs.
“We need to work swiftly... to get massive amounts of assistance to the community,” Council member Gregorio Casar said. “No one should lose their home during the pandemic.”