The Biden administration extended the national eviction moratorium for counties that are experiencing “substantial or high levels of community transmission of COVID-19.” Unfortunately, that’s most of the country, but that means millions of Americans should be protected from getting evicted while the pandemic rages on.
However, since the first eviction moratorium was ordered last year, landlords across the country have been finding loopholes and continuing to evict renters. The Biden administration’s more narrow moratorium may make that even easier.
Renters at risk of being evicted right now face a lot of uncertainty. There’s the possibility that the Supreme Court will rule the eviction moratorium is unconstitutional. Even if the moratorium remains intact, it was extended only until Oct. 3.
The moratorium is aimed at protecting people from being evicted because they are unable to pay rent, but many landlords have come up with other reasons to evict tenants. They can evict them for alleged criminal activity or various other lease violations, even if they’re really motivated by the lack of rent money coming in. Landlords could also simply choose not to renew a tenant’s lease if it’s soon going to expire.
Furthermore, because this new eviction moratorium is meant to protect tenants in communities experiencing “substantial or high levels of community transmission of COVID-19,” tenants would have to show that their county qualifies to avoid eviction, and some counties don’t have sufficient data to prove that even if it is the case.
Precise data concerning how many people have already been evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic is not available, but it’s possible millions of Americans have lost their homes, and tens of millions more are at risk of being evicted in the coming months.
The Eviction Lab, which is tracking evictions in six states and 31 cities, claims nearly 500,000 eviction cases have been filed in the areas it’s tracking since the pandemic began.
Dave Marlon, president of the Las Vegas homeless treatment organization Vegas Stronger, tells The News Station he’s seen a major increase in homelessness in his area since the pandemic began.
“I run a 182-bed facility that welcomes homeless people, and for the first time we’re full,” Marlon says. “We’ve never been full in our history. I recognize that the problem is becoming greater.”
Marlon notes that evictions disproportionately affect low-income people of color, so this is also a “social justice issue we need to be aware of.”
He says if we want to keep people healthy, especially during a pandemic, keeping them housed is a big part of that. It’s also easier to help someone who’s at risk of becoming homeless, he says, than to help someone after they’ve been homeless for some time.
People who suffer from mental-health or substance-abuse issues are particularly affected by becoming homeless, Marlon says, and they often end up in trouble with the law. He says we need to get those people treatment and a place to live rather than throwing them into the criminal-justice system.
The extension of the eviction moratorium will certainly help millions of Americans keep their heads above water for a while, but many have already fallen through the cracks during these moratoriums, and many more will likely be evicted soon.
Federal, state and local governments will need to do more to help people who are facing homelessness during this public-health crisis, or things will continue to get worse.