America-Millions are facing evictions as US eviction moratorium expires

 Blacks, Latinos and Asians are more at risk compare to white Americans

Millions of Americans are facing threat of evictions as US eviction moratorium expires. Millions are facing risk to lose their homes.  The moratorium expired on 31st July, 2021 and federal government refused to extend it. Now 11.5 million Americans have to pay back rents to avoid evictions.

 Many people are still jobless due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those failed to pay rents includes one in five families with children.   The Biden administration says it has done its job by allocating $46 billion in rental assistance, and it’s up to state and local officials to solve the problem. The states and local authorities have just used 10% of the allocated $46 billion so far.

According to the CBPP, Black renters are more than twice as likely to be behind on rent as their White counterparts nationally, while Latino and Asian renters are one-and-a-half times as likely. Historically, Black renters have faced eviction at the highest rates.

As many as 11.5 million people are behind on rent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The left-leaning think tank estimates that about 16% of U.S. households are behind on rent — double the delinquency rate before the pandemic — but in some states more than a quarter of renters are behind on payments. The Southeast is the hardest hit region: 29% of renters in Mississippi and 28% in South Carolina were behind in the first week of July, according to CBPP. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instituted the eviction ban in September of 2020, and it had been extended several times. The Biden administration said last week it would allow the restrictions to expire. House lawmakers on Friday failed to pass a bill extending the moratorium.

In the House, a bill was introduced Thursday to extend the moratorium until the end of the year. But the prospect of a legislative solution remained unclear.

By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in June this would be the last time the moratorium would be extended when she set the deadline for July 31. It was initially put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and into shelters.

Congress has allocated nearly $47 billion in assistance that is supposed to go to help tenants pay off months of back rent. But so far, only about $3 billion of the first tranche of $25 billion has been distributed through June by states and localities. Some states like New York have distributed almost nothing, while several have only approved a few million dollars.

But landlords, who have opposed the moratorium and challenged it repeatedly in court, were against any extension. They have argued the focus should be on speeding up the distribution of rental assistance.

This week, the National Apartment Association and several others this week filed a federal lawsuit asking for $26 billion in damages due to the impact of the moratorium.

Moody's Analytics found that nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, according to the Washington Post.  Moody's chief economist, Mark Zandi, estimated that tenants nationwide could owe a total of $70 billion in back rent by the January 2021, leaving small landlords struggling to pay mortgages, property taxes, and more.

Other estimates are harsher. Investment bank and advisory firm Stout estimated that up to 8.4 million households of renters — a total of 20.1 million individuals — could see eviction filings after the moratorium expires.  

Surgo Ventures identified 250 counties where more than 1 in 5 renters were behind, which Surgo dubbed most at risk. The list includes all but four counties in South Carolina, and roughly half the counties in Georgia and Mississippi. None of the states currently have eviction protections in place beyond the federal government's CDC's order.

In some jurisdictions, courts have allowed eviction cases to proceed even while the federal moratorium has been in place, noted Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project. (The moratorium only prevents the physical ejection of a tenant, not the legal process to evict.)

That means some landlords "have evictions all teed up and ready to go," Dunn said. "The landlord already has the eviction order in hand, and just has to wait until the CDC restriction is lifted to have it physically executed."

"You could see people basically being put out on the street the first week of August, because there are no remaining procedures to go through," he said. 

                                                                 Khalid Bhatti 

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