One year ago, the CARES Act was signed into law. Three weeks ago, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan. Both acts mark historic legislation providing necessary immediate relief to millions of Americans, and as the vaccine rollout continues with the smell of spring in the air, images of post-pandemic life arise—that is, if one is privileged enough to escape the far-reaching implications of a deadly global pandemic.
We may be finally moving past the immediate medical concerns, but what is largely missing from the recovery conversations is the impending epidemic sitting on our doorstep: homelessness. The pandemic exacerbated an already dire housing situation, with millions struggling to find and keep shelter. Thus far, federal relief for Covid-19 managed to curtail complete disaster through the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) eviction moratorium and the government’s limited rental assistance. With the CDC’s eviction moratorium expiring on March 31, disaster looms.
While those that are evicted bear the brunt of financial and health consequences, eviction comes at a cost to us all. Evicted renters need social services, like shelter and medical care, especially during the pandemic.
As one of the top 10 worst states in the nation for affordable housing, the housing situation in Florida provides insight into the potential grim reality for Americans across the country. Of 40 cities at the brink of a widespread housing crisis, five are in Florida, more than any state besides Texas. And if the moratorium expires, 400,000-900,000 people in Florida are at risk of eviction, creating a massive barrier in a state already bearing a heavy economic burden and struggling with an effective vaccine rollout.
Eviction is not an individual issue. While those that are evicted bear the brunt of financial and health consequences, eviction comes at a cost to us all. Evicted renters need social services, like shelter and medical care, especially during the pandemic. Evicted families are also more likely to lean on child welfare or end up in the juvenile delinquency system. Altogether, eviction can drive up government spending tremendously.
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As with most issues, eviction and housing instability disproportionately impacts communities of color. Black and Hispanic households in particular are hit hardest by the rampant unemployment, significantly affecting their ability to pay for their needs, including rent.
Even before the pandemic began, Florida Rising, Florida’s largest social justice organization, was right on the frontlines fighting for housing justice. Now, our work to secure more affordable housing, establish rent control, and stop gentrification is more important than ever and could serve as a model for those seeking solutions in their own communities.
In the short-term, we need policies that extend the eviction moratorium and provide immediate financial support for both renters and landlords. In the long-term, we need investment in affordable housing like Florida’s affordable housing trust fund, a fund currently under attack by Florida legislatures. We need to diversify neighborhoods to include a mix of income levels, which means reworking zoning ordinances to allow this to happen.
If we truly want to recover and live in a post-pandemic world, we must address these long-term implications with long-term solutions. The work starts on a local level, but the effects ripple throughout the nation.