When Hurricane Ida hit the southeastern coast of the United States in late August, 23-year-old Vashante Gray, his two children, two and six, and his mother, Kristi Brown, 45, found themselves without a place to go. to live.
After their building was sold to a new owner who wanted everyone to come out and renovate, Gray and dozens of other tenants were told they had to leave their Starkville, Mississippi apartment complex. Some were given only a few days to do so.
Thanks to funding from a local community group, Gray and her two sons have stayed in a hotel ever since. His mother is also staying in a hotel, but in a different one on the other side of town, which leaves Gray without childcare and, as a result, he struggles to get to work and his children to school.
“They are putting several families on the street,” Gray told Al Jazeera. “A lot of them have disabled babies and they don’t have the funds to move and they don’t get the rent they paid back.”
With the United States Supreme Court ending the national moratorium on evictions on August 26, hundreds of thousands of tenants could soon find themselves in the same position as Gray and his family, with nowhere to live.
While Congress could still legislatively revive the national eviction ban and a handful of states still have an individual eviction moratorium, global investment firm Goldman Sachs estimates that roughly 750,000 homes could be evicted nationwide before the end of the year. .
According to Jasmine Rangel, a research specialist at the Princeton University Evictions Laboratory who studies the affordable housing crisis, the ban has been an effective means of keeping people housed during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
“Throughout the pandemic, states that have been complying with the law and following the guidelines saw a significant drop in evictions, or at least a lower proportion of eviction requests compared to any other normal year in that state.” he told Al Jazeera.
Now that the nationwide moratorium on evictions has ended, he hopes that upcoming evictions will not be evenly spread across all states.
“Certain states make it easier, cheaper and faster to evacuate, especially if [landlords] you can quickly file in bulk, ”he said.
The number and speed of evictions are also often related to the size of the landlord’s properties.
“We know that a particular group of homeowners in large cities is responsible for a higher proportion of evictions,” Rangel said. “It is not unlikely that an owner who owns many units could be one person, but very often they are large corporations.”
On the contrary, he pointed out that smaller “family owners” are often more inclined to find ways to help by setting up payment plans and the like.
Beyond potentially putting people on the streets during a global pandemic, Rangel sees the end of the federal ban as antithetical to the country’s efforts to recover economically from the pandemic.
Like Gray, who is struggling to get to work from a new location without a car or childcare, “those facing eviction are more likely to lose their jobs as well,” Rangel explained, pointing to the Eviction Lab investigation. . (PDF) that links evictions with decreased economic opportunities for certain families.
In light of these declining economic opportunities, many people depend on affordable housing for a place to live. But there are only 37 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low-income households (those earning less than 30 percent of their area median income), investigate by the nonprofit National Low Income Housing Coalition.
With affordable housing already in short supply, mass evictions have the potential to make a difficult situation worse. An eviction stays on a tenant’s credit report for years, which also affects their future prospects for housing.
“This coming tsunami of evictions is going to have some really negative effects on housing because it becomes very difficult with an eviction on your record to get a subsequent housing,” Ed Goetz, professor and housing expert at the Hubert Humphrey School from the University of Minnesota. of Public Affairs, he told Al Jazeera.
“I think it may be enough to push some people into the shadow market” of informal housing, he added.
Higher housing costs
The end of the moratorium also provides a new opportunity for landlords across the country to increase rents after evicting tenants who are behind on their payments, which could increase housing costs in some regions.
“In some markets, owners may be able to switch to higher rents. That may be possible where there is a real housing shortage and where there is unmet demand with incomes that are higher than those that will be most affected by the upcoming evictions, ”Goetz said. “That is probably true in many markets, but not in all markets.”
While homeowners who see themselves as the aggrieved parties regarding income may choose to increase rents once tenants have been evicted, Goetz hopes that affordable housing providers such as nonprofits and government housing programs, be more willing to help find tenants where they are. But not all the evicted will be able to find housing in those places.
Government aid already allocated to distressed tenants has also been slow to distribute, data Posted by the United States Department of the Treasury on August 25 found. State and local programs have spent just $ 5.1 billion of the $ 46.5 billion in federal rental assistance that has been allocated, leading Treasury officials to conclude that “too many beneficiaries have yet to demonstrated sufficient progress in obtaining assistance for distressed tenants and landlords. “
While Rangel agrees that short-term rental assistance is essential, she argues that it is just a temporary bandage on an open wound.
“We have to struggle with thinking short term and thinking long term,” he said. “In the long term, we should start thinking about the fact that evictions should be a last solution or a no solution, simply because of the terrible side effects that they have on people’s lives.”
Gray and his family are experiencing some of those effects now. After running out of funds for the hotel she had stayed at Sunday, Gray stays with her sister, wondering where, if at all, will she and her children find a home.