Evictions, Property Tax Foreclosures in Bexar County Suspended Due to COVID-19 Concerns

click to enlarge The San Antonio Housing Authority has suspended evictions at its properties, including the Alazan-Apache Courts. - BEN OLIVO
Ben Olivo
The San Antonio Housing Authority has suspended evictions at its properties, including the Alazan-Apache Courts.
On Wednesday morning, Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti announced that property tax foreclosure sales will be canceled for the month of April and May amid the COVID-19 outbreak. He said his office is considering halting mortgage foreclosure sales in April and May, as well.

“We also understand that home evictions can be catastrophic at any time, but especially right now,” Uresti said.

Foreclosure sales are typically held on the first Tuesday of the month at the Bexar County Courthouse.

On Monday, the Bexar County Justices of the Peace suspended eviction court proceedings through April 16. According to the order, the judges may extend the suspension depending on how the coronavirus pandemic plays out locally.

The JP courts will remain open, hearing other types of cases, while accepting case filings, among other services.

The edicts come after Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, in a separate declaration on Friday, ordered property owners to suspend evictions for at least 30 days.

Later Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages to be suspended, as well as public housing evictions.

In San Antonio, workers are beginning to take a financial hit as the service industry becomes paralyzed by recommendations from public officials for people to practice social distancing. Many downtown establishments have cut employee hours. Others have closed completely.

On Monday, the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) announced it was suspending non-criminal evictions until further notice. The agency has also halted lease violations and notices to vacate, which are some of the steps that result in eviction court.

Leticia Sanchez, a member of the Historic Westside Resident Association, which has worked with public housing residents to fight evictions against SAHA, welcomed the moratorium.

“They’re still fighting other issues,” Sanchez said. “Right now, for the tenants’ union, their biggest concern is security at the SAHA properties. But, I mean, the fact that they don’t have to worry about evictions at this time is one less worry for them. That is good.”

Sanchez added reaction from the entire San Antonio community is putting a strain on families living in poverty.

“I think the lack of food available at the local grocery stores, that’s been their concern,” Sanchez said. “They were happy to hear the schools were going to be providing food for the kids while the kids are out.”

The San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR), which has criticized an effort by District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño to form a tenants commission, struck a neutral tone in its response to the county’s measures. A commission of renters, SABOR says, adds another layer of bureaucracy at a time when San Antonio housing officials are trying to streamline the system.

“This latest directive is something we will discuss with our members so that they may best understand how it may affect the property owners and their own financial obligations,” Kim Bragman, SABOR’s 2020 Chairman of the Board, said in a statement. “However, we are sympathetic to the needs of the renters, as well. This is obviously a unique situation and inevitably there are extraordinary burdens on everyone right now.”

Nationwide, other cities have suspended evictions in light of COVID-19, including New York and Los Angeles.

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