According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), over 11 million renters in the U.S. are behind on their rental payments. This puts them at risk of eviction if they don’t get emergency rental assistance. Housing attorneys have said that there has already been a rise in eviction filings, while housing advocates expect the wave of evictions to build slowly over the coming weeks and months.
What to do?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced it extended the federal eviction moratorium. It is their understanding that the new moratorium will give state and local governments more time to distribute Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) to people in need and help keep them safely and stably housed. They also believe that the moratorium enables self-quarantine and keeps people who become ill or who are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 out of congregate settings and in their own homes. It is important to note that the moratorium DOES NOT relieve renters from their obligation to pay rent.
Even though the moratorium allows for renters to continue to have a home, it creates problems for both tenants and landlords.
In the case of tenants, rental assistance is NOT automatic. Most do not know they can apply or how to apply for it. Even when tenants know the program, the application process is difficult. You must be tech-savvy and have internet access to fill it out. Additionally, the application isn’t mobile-friendly and not everyone has a desktop computer that they can use to easily navigate and fill out the application.
In turn, landlords lose revenue since they rely on rent money to maintain their properties. Due to this rent money deficit, landlords have had to change their operations. Some have had to leave apartments empty either because they’re fearful of non-paying tenants or because they can’t pay for necessary repairs and renovations.
Additional challenges for low-income tenants once the moratorium lifts is the decreasing affordable housing availability. As more and more tenants get evicted, investors might chose to renovate and rent at higher market rates, making it impossible for affordable housing tenants to stay.
On the other hand, there’s research that shows that while eviction rates are likely to increase, a wave of evictions does not appear likely. Even though eviction risk is higher for lower income properties, the risk should be mitigated by the rollout of federal emergency rental-assistance programs.
Nevertheless, emergency rental relief has been very slow to be distributed since only $3 billion out of the $46 billion in rental relief has been allocated by the federal government. The number of evictions will depend on the pace of the relief distribution, economic recovery, and the decisions landlords make during and after the moratorium lifts.
Therefore, it is essential that assistance gets to people as soon as possible and with less bureaucracy, so that the economic balance and housing rental market can continue to benefit all.