New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended his state’s eviction moratorium, which had been set to expire on Aug. 5, to Sept. 4. But temporary eviction bans mostly kick the can down the road if Congress doesn’t act to help people pay their rent during the pandemic—without that aid, there’s a tsunami of evictions coming when landlords are allowed to evict people again.
A new report from the Aspen Institute estimates that as many as 40 million people could be evicted by the end of the year; other estimates say between 17 million and 23 million people could be evicted by the end of September. For context, landlords filed 2.35 million evictions in all of 2016. For more context, this crisis could lead to a 40% or greater increase in homelessness. There are so many things Congress could do to prevent this, from renewing unemployment benefits that many people can use to pay their rent to passing rental assistance to a renewed and stronger eviction moratorium. But, while Donald Trump is talking about an executive order on eviction, he and Senate Republicans are blocking the big fixes that help people actually pay the rent.
“Unless the federal government invests in eviction prevention, we are not only risking widespread eviction and homelessness, we are guaranteeing negative health outcomes, greater unemployment, educational decline, and long-term harm for renters, property owners and communities,” Emily Benfer, a Wake Forest University law professor and co-author of the Aspen Institute report, told CNN.
If and when the eviction wave comes, Black and Latino families will be hit especially hard. Already, around one in four Black and Latino renters has been unable to pay rent compared with just 13% of white renters. The South will also be hammered: The two states with the highest percentage of renters facing eviction are Mississippi and Louisiana. Alabama, Florida, and Georgia also rank highly.
Already, the federal moratorium in the CARES Act has expired, and as some state and local eviction moratoriums have expired, landlords have moved quickly to evict people. In New Orleans, “[l]egal aid attorneys say they’re fielding triple the number of eviction cases as compared to last year,” Bryce Covert reported in The Nation.
Some states, including New York and Minnesota, have created rental assistance funds. But the amount of money in those funds is a fraction of the overall need—again, the federal government is the only entity that can come close to fixing the problem. And again, despite Trump’s talk of executive action on evictions, Republicans are not interested in doing more than putting a short-term (until November, say) Band-Aid on the problems of low-income people.