How to prevent the next coronavirus “eviction tsunami”

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If you or someone you know is facing deportation, CNBC Make It would like to hear from you. Please send an email to Alicia Adamczyk, journalist at [email protected]Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the United States was experiencing what housing experts and advocates saw as an eviction crisis. More than 2 million people are evicted each year, far more than the number of people who faced foreclosure at the height of the 2008 mortgage crisis.

Experts expect the eviction crisis to worsen well in the coming months. The economic recession of Covid-19 particularly affected the tenants. They represent a disproportionate share of jobs in the service sector, an industry that has been decimated as a result of the coronavirus closings.

In fact, between March 25 and April 10 of this year, almost half of tenants between the ages of 18 and 64 said they were having trouble paying their rent or their utilities, were insecure food or could not afford treatment, according to the Urban Institute. .

Thousands of tenants have missed rent payments in the past few months. People of color fared worse than white tenants due to the disproportionate loss of jobs in their communities, reports the Urban Institute. About 25% of black and Latino tenants said they did not pay or defer rent in May, compared to 14% of white tenants.

To keep people in their homes, the federal government has banned evictions from federally assisted properties until July 25, and in some cities and states, including Massachusetts, New York and Michigan, have implemented their own moratoriums on temporary evictions. But many of these bans begin to expire this month depending on the state, according to Princeton University’s deportation lab, which tracks evictions across the country.

In addition, the additional $ 600 per week in federal unemployment benefits will expire at the end of July. The extra money is “what has helped many people who have lost their jobs continue to pay their rent,” Make It Solomon Greene, senior researcher in housing policy at the Urban Institute, told CNBC. Along with the end of the eviction moratoria, the United States is expected to experience an increase in evictions across the country in the coming weeks.

Expulsion of people amid global health crisis puts them at increased risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19, turning “disaster into apocalypse,” Aaron Carr, founder and executive director, told CNBC from the Housing Rights Initiative.

“A lot of people could be on the streets,” says Carr. “Especially in places like New York that already have a homeless problem, it could turn into a nightmare for the homeless. ”

The eviction also has long-term financial consequences – in some cases, multigenerational – for individuals and families, Make It Alieza Durana, writer at the Eviction Lab. This can ruin a tenant’s credit for many years, making it more difficult for them to find a new place to live. It also has a mental and emotional impact on those affected and particularly strikes minority communities, especially women of color and their children.

The human toll that an eviction puts on an individual, his family and his community is truly devastating.

Alieza Durana

The Eviction Lab

“The human toll that an eviction puts on an individual, family and community is truly devastating,” says Durana, noting that evicted tenants often experience higher job losses and higher rates of depression, among others.

And that’s before adding a global health crisis to the mix.

“Housing instability has huge health consequences, even when we are not facing a pandemic,” said Greene. “The risk of exposure is so much more magnified and compounded when you can’t shelter there because you don’t have a place to shelter.” “

How to stop the coming crisis

If you are facing eviction, Carr suggests contacting a non-profit tenant organization in your area and your elected officials as soon as possible.

That said, the crisis requires a large-scale government response, experts say. If state and local governments don’t act quickly, there will be a “tsunami of evictions and a spike in homelessness” across the country, which will “devastate” not only individuals and their communities, but the economy as a whole, Diane Yentel, President and Chief Executive Officer leadership of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement to CNBC Make It.

“Now more than ever, housing is health care,” says Yentel. “Ensuring stable housing for all is both a moral imperative and a public health necessity. “

Ensuring stable housing for all is both a moral imperative and a public health necessity.

Diane Yentel

National Coalition for Low Income Housing

Activists have lobbied for reforms and policies such as increasing rent assistance and rent cancellation since the start of the pandemic, although states have been slow to move and the federal government did little to support the tenants. Durana said one action the government could take immediately is to ensure that tenants who are eligible for federal rent assistance do get the funds. Currently, only one in four eligible beneficiaries receives it.

Increasing resources for tenants, such as providing lawyers and legal support to tenants facing eviction, would also help keep people in their homes for years and decades to come, says Greene. He also advocates for targeted relief measures, such as allocating about $ 100 billion to cover the rent of low-income tenants during the crisis, and mortgage relief for homeowners.

There is no good data set currently available to estimate how many people could be evicted because of Covid-19, says Greene. But the eviction lab has already noticed an increase in eviction filings since some moratoriums were lifted, says Durana. And unlike the mortgage crisis that lasted for years, all tenants facing eviction could find themselves homeless in just a few months after the lifting of the moratoriums.

Greene hopes the current crisis will spur structural changes in the housing sector, including stronger protections for tenants across the country, as landlords experienced after the 2008 foreclosure crisis. “We have been waiting for this kind of reform in the area of ​​tenants, especially for low-income tenants, “he said.

At the very least, housing experts and advocates hope that the federal government will put in place a nationwide uniform eviction moratorium in place of the ad hoc prohibitions currently in place. In the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 113,000 Americans, keeping people at home should be a priority.

And the HEROES law, which was passed by the House in May but has so far blocked in the Senate, includes an extension of the national moratorium on deportation orders, hearings and executions for 12 months, including Tara Raghuveer , director of KC Tenants, a tenant rights group in Kansas City, says CNBC Make It is a “great start” to preventing tenants from losing their homes.

“I think any eviction at this point is inhuman. It has a potential human cost, the cost of living, if people are forced to leave their homes, ”said Raghuveer. “I don’t think a single eviction should happen. ”

Correction 6/11/2020: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

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