Fears grow of an eviction apocalypse

By Courtenay Brown,

Most states paused evictions when the coronavirus hit — but those holds are expiring at about the same time that more generous unemployment benefits are set to dry up.

Why it matters: The one-two punch could easily exacerbate the housing crisis for Americans already bearing the worst of COVID-19’s effects.

  • One fifth of adults polled in May said they had slight or no confidence they would be able to pay their rent or mortgage due in June, according to a weekly Census survey measuring COVID-19’s impact on Americans.
  • An Urban Institute analysis of Census data found nearly 25% of black renters deferred or did not pay their rent last month, compared with 14% of white renters.
  • In Michigan, courts are bracing for “a coming deluge” of as many as 75,000 landlord/tenant filings. (The state’s moratorium expired this week.)

The big picture: The pandemic — which forced an economic collapse — is adding new burdens on top of the country’s longstanding housing problems.

  • “There was a supply and affordability problem before, and the opportunity for it to get a lot worse presents itself, unless there’s really good support coming from the federal, state and local level,” Paula Cino of the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade group for the apartment industry, tells Axios.

What they’re saying: The result could be even higher rates of homelessness — leaving more people out on the streets in the midst of a global pandemic.

  • “Prior to the pandemic, our homeless shelter system in the U.S. was stretched thin, and also not set up for social distancing,” Alieza Durana, a policy analyst at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which is tracking states’ measures, tells Axios.
  • “The run-of-the-mill devastation that normally occurs in the wake of an eviction is further amplified by the conditions of this pandemic and economic crisis itself.”

Catch up quick: As with other measures that were passed in haste when the pandemic hit, cities and states enacted a patchwork of eviction halts with varying lengths and caveats.

  • Moratoria in places like Texas have lapsed.
  • Others are set to expire in coming days and weeks, including Louisiana and Pennsylvania, while New York State and other places have announced extensions.
  • At the federal level, the coronavirus stimulus package barred federally subsidized housing from evicting residents until July 25.

Between the lines: An eviction moratorium is not a rent freeze — which means that overdue rent is still accumulating for tenants who have been unable to pay it. Once a moratorium expires and landlords can get court approval to take or resume eviction action, residents could be months in the hole.

  • Even more troubling: Some of the expirations collide with the stoppage of more generous unemployment benefits that have helped keep unemployed Americans afloat.
  • Congress is still debating whether to extend enhanced unemployment benefits beyond July 31.

What to watch: It’s possible that property managers or mom-and-pop landlords will negotiate with tenants before evicting them. But landlords themselves are likely feeling the pinch: Some states have also put halts on property foreclosures, and those pauses are about to end.

  • The cost of evicting an existing tenant may not be worth it, particularly if there is little demand from new renters to sign a lease.
  • The same is true for commercial landlords, although some have already said they are taking nonpaying retail tenants (such as Gap Inc.) to court.

Driving the news: San Francisco essentially made its moratorium permanent this week — prohibiting landlords from ever using missed rent for pandemic-related reasons as grounds for eviction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • “The City has a shortage of affordable rental housing, and a significant percentage of its households are renters and at risk of permanent displacement should they be forced to leave their current homes,” officials wrote in the legislation.

The bottom line: There’s the potential for a domino effect that would harm both tenants and property owners.

  • Landlords need rental income to pay their bills, taxes and mortgages.
  • Municipalities need tax income to pay workers and fund essential services.

 

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3 thoughts on “Fears grow of an eviction apocalypse”

  1. Blackrock and other private equity firms will use this to own even more of this country, both private and commercial rental properties when the property owners can’t pay their mortgage because their tenant’s haven’t paid rent in moths. And they are also salivating to get their hands on single family homes when those mortgages go into default as well. The bastards won’t be satisfied until they own everything.

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