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Millions of Americans are at risk of being evicted from their homes as a moratorium on evictions imposed during the pandemic on Saturday.
President Joe Biden said Thursday that he was powerless to extend the 11-month ban on evicting tenants who owe rent, and urged Congress to act.
Meanwhile, an estimated 3.6 million Americans say they could risk eviction in the next two months. A handful of states, including California and Washington, have their own moratoriums that will protect tenants until the end of September, but most do not.
“The pandemic underscores how vulnerable U.S. tenants are,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at NYU.
The ban was aimed at slowing down the spread of the virus by preventing displaced tenants from ending up in the homes of their family and friends or homeless shelters. Studies attribute more than 10,000 Covid-related deaths to evictions early in the pandemic before the ban was introduced.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the moratorium cannot be extended without new legislation. Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Sherrod Brown, have urged their peers to vote in favor of a Dec. 31 extension to give local governments time to spend aid, but legislation seems increasingly unlikely. can get to both homes on time. .
“I am very concerned about this because I have unfortunately seen families being evicted from their homes,” said Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House.
‘It’s one of the most heartbreaking situations you can see: cradles and personal belongings on the street that everyone can see or take, families enduring the indignation of being forced out of their homes and having to find shelter.
An attempt by Democrats in the House to extend the moratorium failed on Friday. Biden also called on state leaders to distribute unspent emergency funds to landlords and tenants. The administration said it could extend the moratorium only for those living in federally supported and funded rental housing until the end of September.
The expiration of the CDC’s emergency moratorium comes at a dangerous time in America’s fight against Covid-19. The Delta variant caused a rapid increase in the number of cases across the country, forcing the CDC to reverse its mask extension.
As part of its measures to support pandemics, Congress has allocated $ 46.6 billion to state and local governments and nonprofit groups to help the 15 million Americans who owe money to their owners. But the bureaucratic challenge of restarting hundreds of separate rental assistance programs has meant that just over $ 3 billion has been paid out to tenants and landlords.
“This is the perfect storm,” said Roshanak Mehdipanah, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies housing policy.
Aid organizations report a huge demand for support. Jeff Jaynes, who runs the Restore Hope Ministries, which provides rental assistance in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said he has never received more requests for help than in the past few weeks. Neither the financial crisis nor the early months of the pandemic were so chaotic.
“It’s not even comparable,” Jaynes said. “It’s like comparing a star in the league to my little league team.”
Many of the families Jaynes works for have had a main income who lost their jobs early in the pandemic or had to take longer to recover from Covid-19 and were never able to catch up. The average debt per tenant in the U.S. is more than $ 3,000, according to the Aspen Institute.
But owners also say they have struggled throughout the pandemic. The National Apartment Association, a trade group representing the owners of 10 million residential units across the country, is suing the federal government over the moratorium, saying it has cost them billions in lost revenue. Yet many in the industry insist that there will be no mass evictions next week.
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“There will be no eviction tsunami,” said Douglas Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council. “Evictions are not good for anyone.”
Bibby said this because many landlords because they had to recover missed payments to cover their own mortgages, repairs and taxes on the properties, they were motivated to work with tenants to draw up payment plans or to provide assistance in repaying their rent.
But for guilty tenants whose landlords reject Bibby’s approach and file eviction cases when housing courts reopen Monday, lawyers say they can do little to help.
“There are going to be people going through the cracks,” said Jacqueline Wagoner, a CEO at the home of nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. “But help is coming.”