A resident is seen next to a tent as the B.C. Supreme Court has granted an injunction to clear an encampment at a parking lot belonging to the Port of Vancouver, adjacent to CRAB Park, which began shortly after May 8 when the homeless camp in Oppenheimer Park was closed, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Up to 23 million people in the U.S. could be evicted by September or October with the expiration of coronavirus protections, housing advocates warn.

An analysis by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project found that high unemployment, coupled with an existing affordable housing crisis, could push one in five households that rent their homes to face eviction this fall. The tenants of federally backed mortgages and other assistance programs have been protected through a moratorium on evictions in the coronavirus relief package (CARES Act) passed in March, but those protections will expire after September 30. Meanwhile, renters who did not qualify for the federal protections have relied on piecemeal efforts from state and local governments to delay evictions and provide emergency rental assistance, many of which are similarly expected to expire.

Some localities have taken action to further extend eviction protections, but housing advocates and attorneys say an extension of moratoriums won’t do much to change the overall picture for those in financial trouble. An analysis by the Aspen Institute found that more than 40% of renters were cost-burdened before the pandemic and subsequent unemployment crisis, while 25% were spending more than half their income on housing. Others say that in order for the moratorium to be successful, it must be coupled with financial assistance to prevent the accumulation of debt. 

Thousands of eviction cases are already pending in many states. Researchers in one Arizona county found the true number cases that could be in violation of the CARES Act continues to inflate when accounting for people who receive federal subsidies for rent, such as Section 8 vouchers. The analysis of at-risk renters prompted courts in Arizona and elsewhere to brace for an onslaught of eviction-related hearings and create new guidelines for court processes. In other states, landlords have been allowed to go forward with hearings up through the execution stage, meaning those evictions can be immediately enforced once the moratorium is lifted.  

Experts warn that the coming evictions will result in a surge in homelessness, which could worsen the coronavirus pandemic due to tighter living conditions for those kicked out of their homes. Many local homelessness projects say they are already stretched to capacity and face difficult decisions on whether to relocate the men and women living in temporary COVID-19 housing in exchange for serving the increase in need. The Aspen Institute warns of disproportionate rates of eviction for Black and Latinx people, particularly mothers and their kids, while other high-risk groups include those who are disabled, undocumented, and those who identify as LGBTQ.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

A Wave of Evictions Would Be Bad for Everybody – Bloomberg – 7/13/2020
But a wave of evictions wouldn’t just be a humanitarian disaster; it would be an economic one as well. Kicking millions of people out of their homes would make the market less efficiently, for one simple reason: There aren’t enough new tenants to take their place.

A National Evictions Cliff Is Coming. America’s Failing Legal System Will Make It Worse – The Appeal – 7/14/2020
Having a lawyer in housing court can give tenants facing eviction a fighting chance: A March 2012 Boston study, for example, found that about two-thirds of people in the group with full-service representation were able to keep their homes, compared to one-third in the group that received more limited legal help. […] But for those who are already unable to make their monthly payments, hiring a lawyer is out of the question.

Summer heat offers additional challenges for those experiencing homelessness in Phoenix – The Arizona Republic – 7/11/2020
Lacrosse describes living out in the heat as “terrible” and said she tries to find shade as much possible. “They aren’t dying of COVID out here, they are dying of heat,” Lacrosse said. 

10 Steps to Take to Try to Prevent Your Own Eviction – The New York Times – 7/11/2020
If you’re having trouble paying your rent, your situation might feel hopeless. It may not be — and experts have these suggestions for what to know and what to do. If you’ve lost your job or part of your income, your instinct may be to avoid your landlord. But it’s probably better to make contact and explain what’s going on.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Michael Hall on Twitter, 7/14/2020:  A study of eviction filings in Boston this spring finds that 78% of cases are concentrated in Black and immigrant neighborhoods. Those communities could face a major displacement crisis in August, when a state-level eviction ban ends

Chicago Tribune on Twitter, 7/14/2020: Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to require many Chicago landlords to give tenants more notice before raising rents or not renewing leases moved forward Tuesday, though both renters’ groups and building owners say the measure has problems

Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan on Twitter, 7/14/2020: Minnesota faced a housing crisis before #COVID19, and for some folks, that crisis has been exacerbated by lost income and unexpected expenses. That’s why we’ve allocated $100M in housing assistance to help Minnesotans stay in their homes.

Santa Barbara Independent on Twitter, 7/14/2020: Peter Adam was the only county supervisor to go against extending the pandemic eviction moratorium. “I worry that at the end of this thing, everybody’s going to wind up with unpaid rent that’s due, and they are going to get themselves into a pickle….”

Public Citizen on Twitter, 7/14/2020: Cut the US defense budget in half. Now cut that next number in half. Now cut that next number in half. Now cut that next number in half. Now cut that next number in half. You’re left with $23 billion It would cost just $20 billion to end homelessness in the United States.

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