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Cincinnati councilman wants to postpone evictions as county's municipal court prepares to resume them

WCPO eviction notice.png
Posted at 4:08 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 20:26:57-04

CINCINNATI — Despite continued federal guidance against allowing evictions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues into spring, a Hamilton County judge announced Cincinnati's municipal court soon would begin processing evictions again. Now, one city councilman is taking action to hit the brakes.

"Most of these evictions involve children," said City Councilman Greg Landsman during a news conference Friday morning, where he introduced an ordinance that would put the eviction ban back into place.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its moratorium until June 30.

"For me, (it's about) making sure every child is able to stay in their homes so that every child is as successful and as healthy as humanly possible," Landsman said.

Nick Dinardo, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, said the region would stand alone among major Ohio cities in re-implementing eviction proceedings.

"In Cleveland, in Columbus, in Dayton, tenants in all those major Ohio cities still have the protection of the CDC order. We are an outlier," he said. "Folks in Silverton or Gulf Manor, Lincoln Heights, Forest Park, Delhi, this won't help them."

Politicians, activists and tenants’ rights organizers across the United States have argued that evicting tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic is unfair, considering the novel coronavirus’ unforeseeable impact on the global economy and the safety of everyday life.

Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather Russell announced a week ago that evictions would resume, saying an appeals court directed lower courts to do so while it reviews a case involving landlords who say eviction restrictions have caused financial strain.

On the same day the CDC extended its moratorium, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals -- which has jurisdiction over Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee -- voted to grant an injunction against the CDC on behalf of a group of Tennessee landlords. Russell said that decision bound her to resume proceedings.

“I just do what the superior court tells us to do,” Russell told WCPO last week. “It’s not like I’m a hard and cruel and cold-hearted person wanting to evict people in COVID. Like any other judge anywhere in our federal district, I must follow the latest ruling from a superior court, which says the moratorium is stopped.”

Russell declined to comment further for this report.

Hamilton County has $60 million in federal aid to help people pay up to 12 months of past-due rent and up to three months of future rent. Landsman said he hopes his proposal will give advocates more time to get that relief money in the hands of county residents facing potential homelessness.

Cincinnati City Council will vote on Landsman's measure

Those in need of assistance have options. They can reach out to the following organizations for help in finding relief:

  • St. Vincent de Paul/Community Action Agency: 513-421-0602
  • United Way: 2-1-1
  • Housing Opportunities Made Equal: 513-721-4663
  • Municipal Court helpline: 513-946-5650