A huge fall out of the coronavirus and lack of government intervention is the avalanche of evictions heading our way. This renter’s crisis has already begun as states reopen and eviction moratorium and mortgage freezes are lifted. There are roughly 110 million Americans in rental units and even before the pandemic ground the economy to a halt, the US was averaging about 300,000 eviction requests a month. Now, with so many people losing their jobs, or unable to receive the full paycheck they used to, many are left without any options and have been forced to rely on the mercy of their landlords, who also have to pay mortgages and answer to banks. The Amherst real estate firm estimates that 28 million households are now at risk of eviction. A travesty that local and federal government should have prevented.
The federal freeze on mortgages guaranteed by the CARES Act only applies to mortgages that are federally subsidized or buildings with federally backed mortgages and it expires on July 25th. There has been no federal eviction stay or rent freeze. Instead, it has been left up to local and state governments to protect tenants. Most places have passed anti-evictions mandates, or more accurately, eviction postponements, but they vary widely and often contradict themselves in overlapping areas. They have no legal precedent, leaving officials, landlords and tenants unsure of how to proceed.
Some landlords are bypassing the law, serving self-help evictions. “Self-help” evictions are illegal and usually involve the landlord shutting off utilities, locking residents out of their homes and/or putting their stuff out in the street. While this is a horrible problem during the best of times, during COVID, it is especially heinous. Nobody should be forced out of their home due to the unmitigated and preventable spread of COVID-19. Other countries who quickly implemented effective measures are seeing under 100 new daily cases. On Friday, Florida alone saw 9,000.
With over 44 million Americans filing for unemployment, small businesses being forced to close their doors and 22.5% of all households at risk of eviction, we desperately need another stimulus package. And we need at least the $100 billion in rental and housing assistance outlined in the HEROES Act. We need more food assistance and programs. We need the unemployment expansion to be extended as long as the pandemic lasts. We need our tax dollars to be put towards the safety and wellbeing of the American people, not just loopholes for the wealthy and costly government bailouts for corporations that continue to fire workers.
While the economic repercussions are and will be severe and quantifiable, the psychological toll of debt and homelessness will be incalculable and long lasting.
If you need information, templates, and/or state specific resources, visit the National Housing Law Project’s page here.
Yours in Strength,
The Take Back Control Team