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Fair housing advocates plan to sleep outside St. Anne’s Episcopal Church after holding a rally in downtown Annapolis Friday night in a bid to reinstate eviction protections that have expired in Maryland.
CASA, the largest immigrant advocacy organization in the Mid-Atlantic region, is hosting a rally for tenant protections at Lawyers Mall outside of the State House at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by a “sleepout” at historic St. Anne’s nearby.
The Supreme Court struck down federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protections for tenants in late August, arguing that further action had to come from Congress. The CDC order allowed tenants to use a pandemic-related loss of income in court to temporarily avert an eviction. Similar protections from Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) also ended in August after Maryland’s state of emergency expired.
There are roughly 131,000 households behind on rent in Maryland, according to the National Equity Atlas, and the total rent debt in the state is estimated to be around $429 million. About 80% of tenants behind on rent are people of color, according to the National Equity Atlas.
Cathryn Paul, government relations and public policy manager at CASA, said the goal of the rally is to increase pressure on public officials to put tenant protections in place. She said preventing evictions is particularly important now as more contagious variants spread and weather turns colder.
“This is absolutely nowhere close to being over,” Paul said. “Black and Brown communities, especially, are suffering and are preparing for homelessness right now as we move into this next month. Now is not the time for us to be shy about protecting people.”
Holding the rally and event on Oct. 1 is intentional because rent will be due that day, she said.
Fair housing advocates and some local leaders have been calling on Hogan since August to reinstate the state’s eviction protections, but no new orders have been issued. Some also have suggested that legislative leaders should call a special session to tackle eviction protections. Hogan and state lawmakers called on local officials to ramp up distribution of emergency rent relief money from the federal government, but Paul noted that disbursement has been slow.
Paul said CASA also wants to see the General Assembly pass reforms during their 2022 legislative session to protect tenants from eviction. Lawmakers came close to passing several housing reforms this year, including a measure that would’ve extended emergency protections beyond the end of catastrophic health emergencies, but failed to do so before the session ended in April.
They did pass a measure aimed at increasing access to counsel for tenants in eviction cases, but a separate measure that would’ve raised court filing fees and summary ejectment surcharges to pay for access to counsel failed.
“We hope that they can move forward with it,” Paul said of those legislative reforms.