As many as 11 million Americans could be at risk of eviction once a moratorium on landlords kicking people out of their homes expires at the end of the month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium will end on June 30. It has been in place since last September, and is said to have saved thousands of people from losing their homes during the COVID-1 pandemic, CNBC reported.
But once the moratorium expires, experts say that the number of evictions could skyrocket. A recent analysis by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that around 15% of adult renters in the U.S. are currently behind on their rental payments.
“We’re going to see what we’ve been managing to stave off: this wave of evictions that is just going to crush some of these areas,” John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, told CNBC.
The eviction moratorium has not come without criticism. Landlords have voiced opposition to it and there have been numerous legal challenges as they’re forced to bear the brunt. Landlords still need to keep making payments on their rental properties and maintain them, and they’re doing this without receiving any income from them. They argue that they shouldn’t have to house people for free or shoulder massive rental arrears that could be as high as $70 billion throughout the U.S.
Housing advocates argue that lifting the moratorium at the end of June will not serve the interests of either tenants or landlords, as states are still trying to work out how to distribute the $45 billion in rental assistance that’s been granted to them by Congress to address the problem.
Mark Melton, a lawyer who represents tenants facing eviction in Dallas, told CNBC that the moratorium should stay in place until the money has been distributed. “If you bail out the renter, that means you have bailed out the landlord too,” he argued.
One tenant who’s facing eviction is Missouri resident Heather Jordan, 48, who has already been approved for rental assistance. However, she told CNBC it could take weeks until the money reaches her landlord, and that he has already made moves to evict her.
Jordan said she fell behind on her rent after she lost her job shortly before the pandemic began. Her wife cannot work because she is disabled, she added. “If you have the moratorium in place, it allows you time to get the landlord paid,” she said.
If Jordan and her family, which includes her two children and two grandchildren, are evicted, she said she doesn’t know where they’ll be able to live. She has lived in her rented home for nine years, and said she worries she will struggle to find a new rental home with an eviction on her record. “We will be homeless,” she said.
Jordan is one of millions who are at risk, but the rates of those who’re behind on their payments vary from state to state. Renters in Florida are most at risk, with almost one in four said to be behind on their housing payments there. And there’s a similar number who are in arrears in South Carolina, according to CBPP data.
Other states don’t have such a big problem. In Maine and Kentucky, just 6% of renters are said to be struggling.
CBPP’s senior research analyst for housing policy Alicia Mazzara told CNBC that there are several reasons for the disparity between states. “Some states already faced greater housing affordability problems before the pandemic,” she explained.
Mazzara explained that the situation also varies according to each state’s economy. The pandemic has caused a disproportionate number of job losses in the restaurant and hospitality sectors, she said, adding that there were a lot more people working in these jobs in Florida before the pandemic than there were in states such as Maine.
The pandemic has also exacerbated racial inequalities too, Mazzara said. CNBC noted that Black renters across the country are almost four times more likely to be behind on their rental payments than whites, for example.
Of course, the risk of eviction is higher for low income families too, as these are far more likely to have problems paying the rent. Pollock of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel pointed out that anyone who was living from paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic “is going to be very vulnerable” to eviction.
Senior citizens are another vulnerable group, experts say. The most recent U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey survey, conducted in April, found that more than 100,000 people aged 65 or older said they expect to be evicted within the next two months. Meanwhile, 450,000 people aged between 55 and 64 years old said they also fear being evicted within the next couple of months.