(CNN) — Ronald Leonard expects the sheriff to arrive on his doorstep in Daytona Beach, Florida, any day after the federal eviction ban expires on Saturday.
“I’m a mess,” said Leonard, a retiree who lives on a fixed income. “If I end up on the street, I will never survive.”
Like many of the 11.4 million people who are currently behind with their rent, Leonard was able to remain in his home after the landlord filed for an eviction due to the federal eviction moratorium. Implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last September to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the order prohibited the eviction of tenants for non-payment of rent.
The CDC moratorium – controversial and confusing from the outset and continually nearing an expiration date – was a “band-aid on a wound that needed to be healed,” said David Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference.
The White House announced Thursday that it would not ask the CDC to re-extend the protection, which expires on July 31, and asked Congress to take action. The Biden administration would have liked to extend it (it has already been extended four times) given the increase in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki cited the ruling of the Supreme Court that “clear and specific authorization from Congress” – new legislation – would be needed for the CDC to extend the moratorium beyond its current deadline.
The House Committee met on Friday to consider a bill to extend the federal moratorium on evictions until December, but there is no broad bipartisan support and it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
The Biden administration also asked government agencies to extend their respective eviction bans, which will also expire on July 31. On Friday, agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) expanded their limited protections against evictions, prohibiting eviction from those living in federally insured single-family home properties through September.
The CDC’s eviction moratorium and other protections have prevented an estimated 2.2 million eviction requests from being implemented since March 2020, according to Peter Hepburn, a researcher with the Evictions Laboratory and assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University. in Newark.
“These moratoriums and protections have not been perfect, but they have certainly had a massive effect on preventing eviction requests,” Hepburn said.
That’s because an unprecedented amount of federal rental assistance – $ 46 billion – makes its way through states, cities, and local distribution points for homeowners and renters in need. Help is the last lifeline that many tenants can hold on to. But for many, it will not arrive in time.
Nowhere to go
Leonard, 68, rented his one-bedroom apartment in Tzadik Park in late March 2020, just as the pandemic was sweeping across the country. It would be a new beginning for him after his relationship with his family members deteriorated. He planned to stay there for a year while he searched for a more permanent retirement home based on his income.
The ex-heavy equipment operator lives on a monthly income of US $ 1,159 provided by Social Security. With a monthly rent of $ 819, including utilities, housing costs accounted for 75% of his income. But he could afford it, even as he struggled to furnish his empty apartment with the basics. After July, when her doctor told her to stay home to protect herself from the virus, her expenses increased. She had to pay more for essentials and have them delivered to her home, so she fell behind on her rent.
When his rent went unpaid in March 2021, along with $ 1,433 in back rent after several months of partial payments and hundreds of more late fees for not paying his rent in full, the landlord applied for the eviction.
Leonard is now $ 5,688 behind in rent, according to Christina Alletto, chief personnel officer for Tzadik Properties, which owns and manages Tzadik Park, as well as other buildings in more than six states.
He found some security by invoking CDC protection and requested rental assistance. But his landlord did not accept the funds, he said.
In an email to CNN Business, Alletto said the company worked with him, providing him with the necessary documentation to request rent relief, but that the assistance he was requesting covered only a month’s rent, not the full balance.
“Mr. Leonard stated in his letter [para solicitar] assistance that he bought new furniture with his stimulus check instead of paying the rent, so he was denied further assistance, “Alletto said, referring to the rental assistance dealer.
Leonard says that he had been sleeping on the floor for many months after moving into the apartment because he had not been able to buy a mattress. He said he spent $ 69 on an air mattress.
Alletto said Tzadik continues to accept rental assistance funds and is willing to work with tenants who have problems. “Eviction is always a last resort after all other avenues have been explored with each individual resident,” he said in the email.
But Leonard, who until now had been protected by the CDC’s eviction ban, is running out of avenues to explore. Your latest effort to stay in your home is a letter to the judge in the eviction case explaining that you now have a pending application for 12 months of rental support and expect to receive it, but you do not believe it will arrive before the eviction ban expires. .
With medical problems and nowhere to go but “on the street,” he asked for more time in his handwritten letter. “All the rent will be paid, but I don’t know if it will be paid before July 31 … please help me so I don’t lose everything I have.”
Millions at risk of eviction
Millions of tenants like Leonard are at risk of eviction as the clock ticks. More than 3 million people said they would likely be evicted “in the next two months,” according to a census survey conducted in early July, and nearly 5 million tenants said they will not be able to pay their August rent, according to the same survey. .
Unable to extend protection, the Biden administration has shifted its focus to accelerating the distribution of support to pay rent, streamlining applications, and encouraging communities to create exit ramps so that millions of people do not fall off a cliff of evictions.
“We have known for almost a year that the eviction moratorium would eventually come to an end,” Dworkin said. “In December, Congress allocated $ 25 billion to help tenants. We have had seven months to spend that money. There is no excuse that it is not in the hands of those who need it most.”
While some states and localities are doing better than others at distributing the money, only a fraction of the $ 46 billion earmarked for rental assistance, including December stimulus money and the American Rescue Plan, has come to tenants and landlords.
“We are seeing the front row of the eviction crisis,” Dworkin said. “It will focus on the states that have the greatest impact and the least protection for tenants.”
The states where residents are at the highest risk of eviction include South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and New Jersey, according to a report by Eviction Risk Insights from UrbanFootprint, an urban planning data company. Their research also shows that black tenants have more than twice the risk of eviction compared to white tenants, with approximately 25% of the population at risk black and 11% white.
The areas where people are most likely to be evicted are also areas more likely to have lower vaccination rates, according to research from the Eviction Laboratory.
“Given the low vaccination rates in areas most at risk of eviction and the rapid spread of the Delta variant of covid-19, the public health case for an eviction moratorium is as strong today as it was when the CDC originally instituted politics, “Hepburn said.
Find new protections
Valeria Allieti, a single mother living in Las Vegas, suffered from her income when the pandemic prevented her from cleaning houses.
He fell behind in paying the $ 1,270 a month rent for the four-bedroom house he shares with his three children, but found protection under the eviction moratorium.
Allieti said she was reluctant to apply for rent support, as she was used to being a single mother who needs to solve her problems herself.
“I don’t feel powerful because of the moratorium,” she said through a translator. “I feel like a bad person. I’ve always been able to do it myself.”
But now he owes about $ 6,000 in back rent and considers applying for assistance to be his best protection against eviction after the CDC moratorium expires.
Nevada has extended its eviction protection for those who are in the process of applying for rental assistance. The state also passed a law to seal eviction records for the pandemic.
“Despite the eviction moratorium and tenant protections we have won, we face an uphill battle,” said Lalo Montoya, political director and housing justice coordinator at Make the Road Nevada.
For Allieti, that means waiting as patiently as possible for rent support to arrive so she can pay what she owes and stay home.
“Right now I feel like I can’t focus on my day to day,” Allieti said. “I feel lost in the clouds. I worry about the prospect of losing our home, the uncertainty about what might happen.”
If you are looking for emergency rental assistance, there is a searchable list of programs available at the US Treasury and also lists managed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Housing Conference.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism