Evictions set to skyrocket as protections expire

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Even as the pandemic rages on, many protective measures against evictions come to an end.No-Mad | iStock | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he does not want people to be deported during the pandemic and that his executive action “will largely solve this problem, hopefully completely”.Experts disagreed, as the president was only asking federal agencies to consider measures to prevent evictions.

Now, the Department of Housing and Urban Development says it will extend the ban on evictions to single-family homes with mortgages issued by the Federal Housing Administration, Politico reported this week. Indeed, this protection would be much narrower than the now expired eviction moratorium in the CARES Act, which also included properties backed by government-sponsored lenders Fannie May and Freddie Mac, and would have covered nearly a third. rental housing across the country. .

“HUD’s new moratorium only applies to a small fraction of units covered by the CARES Act and does nothing to protect the overwhelming majority of tenants in the United States from eviction and its devastating consequences,” he said. said Emily Benfer, evictions expert and visiting professor. law at Wake Forest University.

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Will Fischer, senior director of housing policy and research at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said the ban “would help little or no renters.”

“If we don’t see an extension of moratoria and rental aid, there is a real risk of seeing a sharp increase in evictions,” Fischer said.

It remains to be seen whether deeper protections are announced or whether Congress reaches agreement on another stimulus package that could extend relief to tenants.

But time is running out.

The federal CARES eviction moratorium expired at the end of July, and because it required tenants in protected properties to be given 30 days notice of their eviction, proceedings can begin as early as next week, said Eric Dunn, litigation director at the National Housing Law Project.

“The owners are just waiting,” he said.

Leaving Americans even more vulnerable is the fact that the weekly federal unemployment hike of $ 600 expired at the end of July and Democrats and Republicans have not been able to compromise on this. it was necessary to replace. Now unemployed Americans can only rely on their state benefits, which can be as little as $ 5 or $ 15 a week.

Up to 40 million Americans could lose their homes in this downturn, four times the amount seen during the Great Recession. More than 1 in 5 renters were late in July. Some states will be particularly affected: nearly 60% of tenants in West Virginia are at risk of eviction, compared to 22% in Vermont.

As federal protections against evictions end, many states that have stayed their own proceedings have now allowed them to resume. As of July 15, the moratoriums on evictions have lapsed in Michigan, Maryland, Maine and Indiana.

“It’s going to be chaos,” Dunn said.

Alexis Erkert, a legal services attorney from Southeast Louisiana, can attest to this. Since the moratorium expired in her state in June, she said: “our deportation rate is three times what it was at the same time last year”. She is currently treating around 100 cases.

Ronda Farve fell behind on her rent after being fired from her job as a chef at a restaurant in New Orleans in March. Her owner is trying to evict the single mother and her two children.

She said she felt like she was being punished for something beyond her control.

Losing your home during this pandemic could mean losing your life.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal

the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing

“If I have it, I’ll pay it off,” said Farve, 29. “It’s the roof over my children’s heads. ”

In some states where evictions may have continued, some counties, towns and villages have issued their own eviction bans.

Yet a patchwork of wards is not effective in keeping people in their homes during a pandemic, housing advocates say.

For example, even though Texas resident Jennifer Baird should have been protected by moratoriums issued by Travis County and the City of Austin, her landlord decided to evict her this month. Texas’ statewide deportation ban expired in May.

“It’s extremely scary,” said Baird, 37. Her income as a dog sitter and real estate agent has dried up and she now fears living in a shelter and using public toilets during the pandemic.

“At least in my house I can protect myself,” Baird said. “If I’m away, I don’t know what I’m going to have to deal with that could put my health at risk. ”

Baird’s case demonstrates why Congress must find a national solution to the looming deportation crisis in the United States, said Keegan Warren-Clem, chief counsel for the Texas Legal Services Center.

“Right now, eviction protections exist on a piecemeal basis, and stressed out homeowners can try to use state laws that are inconsistent with public health best practices to circumvent local laws that give priority to public health, ”said Warren-Clem.

And even in states where there are moratoria on evictions, protections vary.

For example, Arizona has a moratorium in place until Oct. 31, but it only prevents the enforcement of evictions, or the final stage in which a tenant is forced out of their home. In the meantime, owners can still sue in court, and more than 9,000 have done so in Phoenix alone, according to The Eviction Lab. (Tenants must also prove that their non-payment is due to difficulties related to the pandemic.)

“When the moratorium is lifted, it is only a matter of time before the sheriff puts families on the streets,” Benfer said.

This week, the United Nations urged countries to allow people to stay in their homes for the duration of the crisis.

“Temporary bans in many countries have ended or are about to end, and this raises serious concerns about the possibility of a tsunami of evictions,” said Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the special rapporteur of the UN on the right to housing, in a press release.

He did not mince words: “Losing your home during this pandemic could mean losing your life. “

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