SUPREME COURT PRESS RELEASE
Supreme Court Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon will speak next week at a White House event on eviction prevention initiatives in cities and states. The Chief Justice will highlight a court-based program being phased in across New Mexico.
The White House Summit on Deportation Prevention Reform will be held virtually on Tuesday, August 2, beginning at 10:30 a.m. MT.
“The Eviction Prevention and Diversion Program provides assistance to tenants and landlords, reducing the risk of financially vulnerable New Mexicans losing their homes,” Chief Justice Bacon said. “At the start of an eviction case, the program works with people to apply for emergency rental assistance. Those who applied with assistance from the program had an almost 80% success rate in receiving some form of housing assistance, and that was before the program was fully implemented in all 33 counties of the New Mexico.
Program staff – called navigators – contact tenants and landlords soon after an eviction case is filed. They help people complete applications for federally funded and state available assistance for rent, utilities and moving. The program provides information about upcoming hearings in eviction proceedings and the availability of trained settlement facilitators to enable landlords and tenants to resolve their disputes over unpaid rent, possibly without eviction. Eviction cases are temporarily suspended when the parties agree to negotiate a settlement with a facilitator.
Tenants, landlords and other parties in 2,400 eviction cases were contacted 4,100 times through the program – by phone, email and text – in its first five months, although it did not not yet worked in all areas of New Mexico.
The court-based program was developed in collaboration with courts, state agencies, landowners, housing advocates, legal service providers and local governments. This is part of New Mexico’s efforts to use federal funding from the American Rescue Plan’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program to ease financial hardship during the lingering pandemic and help people avoid homelessness.
According to the Department of Finance and Administration, New Mexico’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) has awarded $148 million and helped more than 44,000 households.
The state-administered ERAP provides funding to New Mexico Legal Aid to help with housing stability and eviction prevention, including helping people retain housing vouchers, reducing liability a person for past and future housing expenses and negotiating more time for people to move out after an eviction.
The Eviction Prevention and Diversion Program was also launched with funding from the state allocation of Federal Emergency Housing Assistance. The Courts Administration Office oversees the program and services are provided through a contractor.
Under a Supreme Court order, the eviction prevention and diversion program was phased in from February in two counties and then expanded to additional counties each month. The program began operating statewide in July, when it went into effect in McKinley, San Juan, Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia counties.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Supreme Court stayed evictions for tenants who provided a judge with sufficient evidence of their inability to pay rent during the pandemic. The moratorium on eviction orders was lifted in counties when the Eviction and Diversion Prevention Program began operating there.