With a federal eviction moratorium that expired Monday and other temporary state and local protections and resources coming to an end—and rental and mortgage due dates for September 1 fast approaching—worries are growing this week that an estimated 30-40 million people in the U.S. could be at risk of losing their homes in the next several months "in the absence of robust and swift intervention."
According to The Guardian:
It is impossible to calculate exactly how many evictions have taken place during the pandemic because the government doesn't track that data. The closest thing to a national database, Princeton University's Eviction Lab, has not yet found a sustained rise in evictions, though some states have seen spikes after local eviction moratoriums ended.
Nonetheless, experts warn that unless relief is extended to vulnerable renters and homeowners experiencing financial hardship due to Covid-19, a surge in housing instability and dislocation is inevitable, especially for low-income renters.
Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project, told CNBC that "landlords are just waiting."
Emily Benfer, chair of the American Bar Association's COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction and a well-known authority on health and housing justice, argues that the expiration of expanded unemployment insurance and temporary housing relief alongside the reopening of courts means that it is only a matter of time before the U.S. "can expect an avalanche of evictions that will bury entire communities and result in a cascade of additional losses to financial well-being, health and housing opportunities."
As Common Dreams reported last month, Senate Republicans have been criticized for allowing the federal eviction moratorium, which was part of the CARES Act, to expire in the first place. The HEROES Act, passed in May by House Democrats, contains $100 billion in rental assistance, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, and it extends eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through March 2021.
Yet it has languished on the desk of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for months. McConnell adjourned the U.S. Senate on August 13 without coming close to passing a new Covid-19 relief package. Although 30 to 40 million people remain at risk of eviction in the absence of economic assistance, senators are not expected to return until September 8.
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Noting Monday that "the grace period for the federal eviction moratorium in the CARES Act expired," Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) urged McConnell to "call the Senate back into session and bring the HEROES Act to the floor."
Alluding to "millions at risk of eviction and homelessness," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also drew attention to the need for immediate rent relief.
This sentiment was echoed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who referred to the moral obscenity of U.S. residents' growing dependence on GoFundMe depite living in the wealthiest country in the world:
Thirty million don't have enough to eat, 22 million are behind on rent.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 24, 2020
It is morally obscene that the American people have to rely on GoFundMe to pay for rent and food.
Mitch McConnell: End your vacation. Pass emergency relief now. https://t.co/qXLhCnlSpK
Even before policymakers went on vacation, housing activists in various parts of the country have been organizing tenants to prevent the "seemingly inevitable" surge in evictions. Journalist Amanda Holpuch stated that the Housing Justice for All coalition "has seen its email list grow during the pandemic from 6,000 people to more than 100,000 people."
The Housing Justice for All coalition has seen its email list grow during the pandemic from 6,000 people to more than 100,000 people https://t.co/hSqrVPY2C5— Amanda Holpuch (@holpuch) August 25, 2020
Legal aid lawyers have also indicated their readiness to defend renters in eviction court proceedings. Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, shared a New York Times article featuring housing lawyers' warnings about the impending crisis:
“Our caseloads haven’t yet exploded, because the courts just started hearing cases that were pending before the pandemic struck,” said Lindsey Siegel, a lawyer with Atlanta Legal Aid. “But it’s coming.” https://t.co/2YisnWiVns— Diane Yentel (@dianeyentel) August 24, 2020
My bill to extend and expand the eviction moratorium is ready to go. So is @SenSherrodBrown’s bill for rental assistance. What are you waiting for, @SenateMajLdr McConnell? You can’t just close your eyes and think this problem will go away on its own. https://t.co/HkUkcRmdAH— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) August 24, 2020