When Hurricane Ida hit the southeastern coast of the United States in late August, 23-year-old Vashante Gray, her two children aged two and six, and her mother, Kristi Brown, 45, were homeless.
After their building was sold to a new landlord who all wanted to renovate, Gray and dozens of other tenants said they had to move out of their apartment complex in Starkville, Mississippi. Some only had a few days to do so.
Thanks to funding from a local community group, Gray and her two children have been in a hotel ever since. Her mother is also housed in a hotel, but in another city in the city, leaving Gray without child care and struggling to find herself at work and her children go to school as a result.
“They are putting several families on the street,” Gray told Al Jazeera. “Many of them have babies with disabilities and do not have money to move, and they do not get money back from the rent paid.”
With the US Supreme Court ends the country’s national moratorium on evictions on August 26, hundreds of thousands of tenants could soon find themselves in the same position as Gray and her family – with nowhere to live.
Although Congress can still legally revive the national eviction ban and a handful of states still have individual eviction moratoriums, global investment firm Goldman Sachs estimates that about 750,000 households could be evicted nationwide before the end of the year.
According to Jasmine Rangel, a research specialist at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab studying the affordable housing crisis, the ban was an effective way to house people during the COVID-19 health crisis.
“During the pandemic, states that obeyed the law and followed the guidelines saw a significant decrease in evictions, or at least a smaller portion of the eviction applications, compared to any other normal year in the state,” she said. told Al Jazeera.
Now that the nationwide eviction moratorium is over, she expects that the forthcoming evictions will not be evenly distributed across the states.
‘Certain states make it easier, cheaper and faster to evict, especially if [landlords] can be submitted in bulk quickly, ”she said.
The number and speed of evictions is also often related to the size of an owner’s possessions.
“We know that a specific group of owners in large cities are responsible for a larger share of the evictions,” Rangel said. “It’s not unlikely that a landlord who owns many units could be a single person, but often they are large businesses.”
Conversely, she noted that smaller “mom-and-pop landlords” are usually more likely to find ways to draw up payment plans and the like.
Aside from the fact that people may be on the streets during a global pandemic, Rangel sees the end of the federal ban as a contradiction to the country’s efforts to return economically from the pandemic.
Like Gray, who struggles to get to work from a new location without a car or childcare, “those facing eviction will often also lose their jobs,” Rangel explains, pointing to research from Eviction Lab (PDF) which links evictions to declining economic opportunities for certain families.
In light of such declining economic opportunities, many people rely on affordable housing to have a place to live. But there are only 37 affordable and available units that exist for every 100 extremely low-income households (those that make up less than 30 percent of the average income of their area), research by the non-profit National Low Income Housing Coalition.
As affordable housing is already scarce, mass evictions can exacerbate a difficult situation. An eviction remains for years on the credit report of a tenant, affecting their future housing prospects also.
Ed Goetz, professor and housing expert at the Hubert H Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, said: “The coming tsunami of evictions will have a very negative effect on housing, as it will be very difficult to put a later eviction on your record. of public affairs, told Al Jazeera.
“I think it could be enough to push some people to the shadow market” of informal housing, “he added.
Higher housing costs
The end of the moratorium also provides a new opportunity for landlords across the country to raise rents after tenants who are in arrears with their payments, which could potentially increase housing costs in some regions.
‘In some markets you can see that landlords can change to higher rents. This is possibly possible if there is a real shortage of housing and where there is an insufficient demand for income that is higher than that which will be most affected by the evictions that are coming, “Goetz said.” This is probably true in many markets, but not in all markets. ‘
While landlords who see themselves as the grilled parties behind their income may take to raising rents once tenants are evicted, Goetz expects affordable home providers such as non-profit organizations and government housing programs will be more likely to meet tenants where they are. But not everyone who is evicted will be able to find housing in such places.
The state aid that has already been allocated to struggling tenants has also been slowly distributed, data released by the US Treasury Department on August 25. State and local programs have spent only $ 5.1 billion of the $ 46.5 billion on federal rental assistance allocated, concluding Treasury officials conclude that “too many beneficiaries have not yet made sufficient progress in providing assistance. get to tenants and landlords who are not struggling “.
While Rangel agrees that short-term rental assistance is essential, she argues that it is only a temporary bond on a gaping wound.
“We have to struggle to think in the short term and in the long term,” she said. ‘In the long run, we need to start thinking about whether evictions should be a last resort or not, just because of the terrible side effects it can have on people’s lives.
Gray and her family are currently experiencing some of the consequences. After the money for the hotel she stayed in on Sunday runs out, Gray stays with her sister, wondering where she and her children will eventually find a home, if at all.