Evictions Have Been Halted but Is it Enough to Curb Homelessness?

Eviction Notice

Growing concern swept the nation at summer’s end when many eviction moratoriums were lifted. Americans braced themselves for the worst – a spiraling avalanche of evictions to come barreling through, dragging down households vulnerable to homelessness the way a hurricane drags down rooftops and leaves entire cities devastated. However, on the first of September, the expected storm shifted. Patterns changed, and ultimately, a new national moratorium was issued.

Read on to find out what this means for renters, what it implies for the future, and whether these new protections apply to you…

Moratorium Overview: Bill 4163-18-P Falling Under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act at a Glance

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in corroboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, has issued a temporary halt on most residential evictions. From Sept. 4 through Dec. 31, 2020, covered persons cannot be evicted from residential properties due to nonpayment of rent.

This clause was deemed appropriate due to the raging public health crisis of COVID-19, which has caused mass unemployment and underemployment. In an effort to prevent homelessness which would further strain our healthcare system and our economy simultaneously, it has been decided that evictions must, indeed, cease until at least the end of December 2020. At this time, the state of America will need to be reviewed again.

It’s notable to point out that this bill is only applicable for “covered persons”. Many housing advocates claim more needs to be done to prevent spikes in homelessness now and in the near future.

Are You Covered? Applications and Limitations of the New National Moratorium

The new national moratorium attempts to cover approximately 43 million renter households. This means most renters in the United States of America ideally qualify as covered persons. The bill recognizes the link between public health and housing stability, particularly as it applies to populations already vulnerable to illness such as elderly individuals and cancer patients.

In many ways, it exceeds its predecessor, The Cares Act in both function and intent. However, there are some exceptions and limitations to applying this bill in real-life scenarios. Examples of this include:

1) American Samoa residents are not covered.

This exception stems from the presumption that there have been precisely zero incidents of COVID-19 in this tropical US Territory. That being said, one of the noted reasons for their zero positive status is a strict implementation of quarantine. And quarantine is the main reason renters need protection.

Henceforth, this exception seems to set a standard for the presence of the virus as a constituent for rent relief. This could become problematic for the Samoan people and people in other US regions, should the virus lie dormant.

Also, and importantly, the Samoan territory of the US has a history for oppression rooted in colonialism, particularly when it comes to health and marriage. As such, this region has long sought protection as a US territory but is often greeted with hostility. Examples include being denied citizenship, being subject to five consecutive decades of US martial law, being given, as one attorney put it, “a badge of inferiority”, and now being denied renter protections.

2) Single renters with six-figure annual salaries are disqualified.

This could hurt small business owners who relied on a much higher salary in the previous tax year and are now facing serious financial setbacks.

3) Hotel renters are disqualified.

The new national moratorium certainly covers more renters than the CARES ACT. However, it still leaves hotel renters, many of whom are homeless, with little to no protection whatsoever.

4) People who are already homeless are disqualified.

Homeless people who were housed or sheltered temporarily to prevent spreading COVID-19 are being cast out onto the streets. This bill does nothing to protect them from more homelessness.

5) Renters who don’t present a signed declaration to their landlords are disqualified.

This last prerequisite for protection is of the utmost importance to most renters in the USA. The new national moratorium requires renters to present a signed declaration stating that, among other things:

  • Loss of income due to COVID-19
  • Renters have sought government aid and made every attempt to cover their rent
  • An eviction would definitely result in homelessness

What to Do Next if You Can’t Pay Your Rent

If you’ve been clutching your wallet and waiting for a lifeline, this new moratorium, which appears to have been signed in a whisper and published with very little coverage from the mainstream media, is really for you. Renters struggling to make financial ends meet are urged to contact organizations and to make their best efforts to pay as quickly as possible.

Interpretation is a huge factor in the “lawfulness” of new evictions. But don’t let the fact that you are expected to prove your necessity intimidate you. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has put together an interactive map complete with an in-depth listing of statewide rental assistance resources that you can access by clicking here.

What This Means for Landlords

Failure to comply with the new national moratorium could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines which landlords should be made aware of. President and CEO of the National Apartment Association Bob Pinnegar recently expressed his concern in a Forbes interview by stating that the new bill could potentially, “decimate the rental housing industry.” Much like housing advocates have argued, he concludes that direct rental assistance is the only true solution to the problem.

We Still Need Emergency Rental Assistance

Advocates for housing and landlords agree that emergency rental assistance must be implemented in order to secure housing in the future. Please discuss this issue with your local political figures. See where they stand on including it in any pending upcoming stimulus package.

As always, housing is healthcare for the 30 to 40 million at-risk renters. Advocate for housing. Advocate for justice.


Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith

     

Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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