The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a temporary ban on evictions when renters are unable to cover rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The new eviction ban is being enacted through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal is to stem the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, which the agency says in its order "presents a historic threat to public health." It's by far the most sweeping move yet by the administration to try to head off a looming wave of evictions of people who have lost their jobs or taken a major blow to their income because of the pandemic. Housing advocates and landlord groups both have been warning that millions of people could soon be put out of their homes through eviction if Congress does not do more to help renters and landlords and reinstate expanded unemployment benefits. But this new ban, which doesn't offer any way for landlords to recoup unpaid rent, is being met with a mixed response. First, many housing advocates are very happy to see it. "My reaction is a feeling of tremendous relief," says Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "It's a pretty extraordinary and bold and unprecedented measure that the White House is taking that will save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic." That said, she adds that a move like this from Congress or the White House is "long overdue." And she says with no money behind it, it kicks the can down the road. "While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed."
In California, Governor Newsom signed into law a five-month extension of eviction protections. “Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3088 into law late Monday after last-minute wrangling in the California Legislature that tried to balance the demands of both landlord and tenant advocacy groups. "COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California – but some bear much more of the burden than others, especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent, and they deserve protection from eviction," Newsom said in a statement. "This new law protects tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship caused by this terrible pandemic." In March, Newsom issued an executive order placing a moratorium on evictions through the end of May. He twice extended the order, which California's Judicial Council voted last month to end on Sept. 1. Under the new legislation, which goes into effect immediately, tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent from Sept. 1 through Jan. 31 will be protected from eviction. However, those who fail to meet the minimum rent payment could be removed beginning Feb. 1.”
In a New York Times op-ed, sociologist Matt Desmond writes about the threat of eviction and links between housing and health. “Rent — it’s the greediest of bills. For many families, it grows every year, arbitrarily, almost magically, not because of any home improvements; just because. “Demand,” they say, when they hand you a new lease with a stiff rent hike. Or “costs are rising.” What they mean is: “Because I can.” And unlike defaulting on other bills, missing a rent payment can result in immediate and devastating consequences, casting families into poverty and homelessness. If you can’t afford enough food, you can usually qualify for food stamps. If you miss a mortgage payment, you typically have 120 days before your bank can initiate the foreclosure process. But if you can’t pay your rent, you can lose your home in a matter of weeks. During the first half of July, landlords collected 37 percent of total rent from families living in Class C properties — typically older stock, home to low- and moderate-income workers — compared with 80 percent during the first three months of the year. Media coverage of the housing crisis typically focuses on large coastal cities, where rent for a one-bedroom apartment can run north of $3,000. But this is not just New York’s problem or San Francisco’s; it’s the nation’s problem. Places with some of the highest eviction rates include Tulsa, Okla.; Albuquerque; Indianapolis; Toledo, Ohio; and Baton Rouge, La., not to mention many suburban communities and small towns across the country. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 800,000 people around the nation were threatened with eviction each month. Today, with unemployment levels unseen since the Great Depression and the expiration of federal benefits along with national and several state eviction moratoriums, millions of renters are at risk of losing their homes by the end of the year. This process is already underway. Tucson usually sees 10 to 30 eviction cases a day. In June it handled roughly 50 cases a day. That same month, eviction cases were up 70 percent in Alabama, compared with last June. In the last week of July, eviction filings were 109 percent above average levels in Milwaukee. During a pandemic that forcefully links our health to our homes, eviction will help spread the virus, as displaced families crowd into shelters, double up with relatives and friends, or risk their health in unsafe jobs to make rent or pay for moving expenses.”
A NY Times photojournalist traveling across the US during the coronavirus pandemic documents families living on the edge of hunger: “Beginning in May, Brenda Ann Kenneally set out across the country, from New York to California, to capture the routines of Americans who struggle to feed their families, piecing together various forms of food assistance, community support and ingenuity to make it from one month to the next. Food insecurity is as much about the threat of deprivation as it is about deprivation itself: A food-insecure life means a life lived in fear of hunger, and the psychological toll that takes. Like many hardships, this burden falls disproportionately on Black and Hispanic families, who are almost twice as likely to experience food insecurity as white families.”