Expulsion requests are increasing, but not at the rate many experts feared. : NPR


Housing advocates called for tighter protections against evictions in New York City in August, the same month the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal moratorium on CDC evictions. As a result of this decision, expulsions are on the increase in parts of the country which lack local protection.

Brittainy Newman / AP


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Brittainy Newman / AP


Housing advocates called for tighter protections against evictions in New York City in August, the same month the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal moratorium on CDC evictions. As a result of this decision, expulsions are on the increase in parts of the country which lack local protection.

Brittainy Newman / AP

When a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned a federal moratorium on evictions, many housing experts and advocates feared a tsunami of evictions could quickly ensue. This is not quite what is happening, but deportation requests are increasing sharply in many parts of the country.

So a race is underway for congressional rent assistance for people who fell behind on rent during the pandemic before landlords evicted them from their homes. And the race is getting more and more intense. After a very slow start, Congress money is finally reaching more people.

“It means children can stay in school, their parents can stay in their job,” said Wally Adeyemo, assistant secretary of the US Treasury. He oversees 500 national and local programs that distribute $ 47 billion from Congress to pay rent arrears and prevent evictions.

Adeyemo says more than $ 10 billion has reached about 2 million households to help them pay their rent arrears and avoid eviction.

In August and September, the programs made more money for people than in the previous 7 months combined.

“It is very encouraging to see the progress we have made over the past few months as the national moratorium on evictions has ended,” Adeyemo said.

Yet many more people need help and many are running out of time. More than 8 million people are behind on rent and are now at greater risk of losing their homes because this federal moratorium no longer protects them.

Peter Hepburn, a researcher at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, said in most cases pandemic eviction requests were only about half of their normal level, though twice as many people were behind on their rent. But not anymore.

“When we look at the first two weeks of October, they were 25% higher than two months ago,” Hepburn said. This includes some states and cities that still have their own local protections blocking or limiting evictions, such as New York and California.

In places where there is no eviction ban, homeowners are now filing many more eviction cases. He says take Houston for example.

“We have seen a truly astronomical increase in the number of deportation cases filed [in Houston] over the past few weeks. Hepburn says evictions in Houston have doubled since the federal moratorium on evictions was lifted from about half of normal to normal historic levels of evictions. And Hepburn says that’s despite a schedule local emergency rental aid that has worked well to get money from Congress to people who need it.

Of course, the return to a normal rate of evictions with twice as many people in arrears of rent than normal is a far cry from the catastrophic wave of evictions that some experts worry about. But Hepburn says the upward trend in evictions is troubling.

“There is concern that these numbers will continue to rise despite the improvement in the effectiveness of these rental assistance programs,” Hepburn said.

Part of the problem is that there are currently 500 state and local rental assistance programs that attempt to distribute this congressional money. Many are functioning effectively, but others are in disarray. Applications get clogged in systems that demand too many documents from people. And rules that are too strict can prevent families from getting help.

Tawayna Broxton lives in Marietta, Georgia with her 13-year-old daughter and adult son. “The owner says, ‘we just want you to go, you have to get out right away,’” she said.

After falling behind on rent during the pandemic, Broxton says she was approved for assistance by a local rental assistance program. But she says her owner won’t cooperate with the program. Court documents show the owner made efforts to try to evict the family. The owner’s lawyer made no comment.

In situations like this, the Treasury Department has encouraged rent assistance programs to issue checks directly to tenants so they can get back their rent paid and avoid eviction. But the Cobb County Georgia website, where Broxton lives, tells tenants that checks will only be issued to landlords, not tenants. This means that the county’s program will not give people facing eviction this federal money to pay their rent arrears if landlords refuse to respond or participate.

So Broxton says she is afraid of being deported soon and says that she and her 13-year-old daughter have nowhere to go.

“We had to go to a homeless shelter,” says Broxton. “And I don’t want my kids to face it. I’ll have a nervous breakdown.”

A Cobb County spokesperson said the county commissioners’ council wants to make sure the rent assistance money is “Accounted for correctly,” which is why the county program will not issue checks directly to tenants. But the spokesperson said tenants can apply for help through the state-level program which also distributes congressional money and can issue checks directly to tenants.

Broxton says no one has told him about it. “I am shocked,” she said. “They should have told us.” She says she is now trying to get help through the state program.


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