Editorial: No end to evictions?

Evictions, which have mostly been on pause during the pandemic in the US, are expected to ramp up after the expiration of a federal moratorium as housing courts take up more cases and tenants are locked out of their homes.

Housing advocates fear the end of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium could result in millions of people being evicted in the coming weeks. But most expect an uptick in filings in the coming days rather than a wave of evictions.

The Biden administration announced Thursday it will allow a nationwide ban to expire. It argued that its hands are tied after the US Supreme Court signaled the moratorium would only be extended until the end of the month.

House lawmakers on Friday attempted but, ultimately failed, to pass a bill to extend the moratorium even for a few months. Some Democratic lawmakers had wanted it extended until the end of the year.

Struggling renters are now facing a health crisis and an eviction crisis, said Alicia Mazzara, a senior research analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Without the CDC’s moratorium, millions of people are at risk of being evicted or becoming homeless, increasing their exposure to Covid just as cases are rising across the country.

The effects will fall heavily on people of color, particularly Black and Latino communities, who face greater risk of eviction and more barriers to vaccination. More than 15 million people live in households that owe as much as USD 20 billion to their landlords, according to the Aspen Institute. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the US said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Parts of the South and other regions with weaker tenant protections will likely see the largest spikes and communities of color where vaccination rates are sometimes lower will be hit hardest. But advocates say this crisis is likely to have a wider impact than pre-pandemic evictions.

The Biden administration had hoped that historic amounts of rental assistance allocated by Congress in December and March would help avert an eviction crisis. But the distribution has been painfully slow. So far, only about USD 3 billion of the first tranche of USD 25 billion has been distributed through June by states and localities.

Another USD 21.5 billion will go to the states. Ashley Phonsyry, 22, who will be in court Thursday for an eviction hearing after falling several thousands dollars behind on her Fayetteville, Arkansas, two-bedroom apartment, said her landlord has refused to take rental assistance. She left her job after being hurt in a domestic violence incident and suffering from depression and anxiety.

The eviction hearing is a day after her domestic violence case goes to court. Around the country, courts, legal advocates and law enforcement agencies are gearing up for evictions to return to pre-pandemic levels, a time when 3.7 million people were displaced from their homes every year, or seven every minute, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.

 

NT Bureau