A Massive Wave of Evictions Is Coming. Temporary Bans Won’t Help
The comments below are an edited and abridged synopsis of an article by Alieza Durana and Matthew Desmond
Before COVID-19 struck, 300,000 evictions per month were typical in the US. With nearly 10 million people filing unemployment claims in March, evictions will skyrocket without government intervention. In one hint of trouble to come, researchers found that 44% of New Yorkers are expected to have trouble making their April rent.
Though many temporary bans on evictions have been issued, there are limits, and most are temporary. Many landlords are still filing eviction papers, even when there is a freeze on ejecting people from their homes—and not every state has imposed such a freeze. Without a stronger state and federal response, the US is headed for a housing crisis.
Congress’s coronavirus-relief bill prohibits foreclosure on federally backed mortgage loans for 60 days, covering some 30 million homeowners. It also prohibits rental evictions for 120 days for properties secured by a government-backed mortgage. That covers about half of all multifamily homes. Beyond that, protections for renters tends to be haphazard, varying widely by state.
This crisis has struck when millions of people are already living perilously close to eviction. Because of stagnant wages and rising rents, one out of four renters spent over half of their income on housing. Among rent-burdened households, half have little to no savings.
Nearly a third of the American workforce earns less than $12 per hour and has limited access to health care, paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. The mandatory stay-at-home orders and forced closing of business will force much of this population, even with the help of unemployment insurance, to choose between paying rent or buying groceries.
If federal and state leaders do not act swiftly to patch the holes in their eviction policies, the nation’s biggest public health crisis in a century could easily cause a full-blown outbreak of homelessness. Eviction will not help landlords get paid. It will only spread yet more poverty, sickness and death.