The Fight Rages on to Stay Housed in America

In March of 2020 Americans and the world experienced something that no one believed would ever happen. COVID-19 had reached the United States causing widespread panic across the nation.

To protect Americans in March 2020 many stated initiated Stay at Home or Shelter in Place orders closing businesses that were not seen as essential. Not only did this give birth to the term “Essential Worker” but there were millions of Americans who experienced job loss by either furlough or layoff. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in March of 2020 the number of unemployed persons rose by 1.4 million to 7.1 million because of the pandemic.

This put a spotlight on a growing problem of wages not meeting the demanding rising living costs. This found people struggling with their rent as delays in unemployment benefits were delayed across the U.S. as well leaving renters vulnerable for eviction and landlords, property owners were forced to file evictions even through the circumstances. Congress attempted to assist with the issue of unemployment and underemployment by offering stimulus checks to those who qualified. To help fight the risk of those who will become unhoused contracting Covid-19 on September 4th of 2020 the CDC issued the  Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions To Prevent Further Spread of Covid-19. 

This was in effect from September 2020 through December 31st, 2020, to help renters who were behind on their rental payments. On December 31st of that same year, the Temporary Halt known to the public as The Rent Moratorium was extended by the Federal government until July 31st.

45.6 billion dollars was allocated by the federal government to help state governments aid renters along with an additional round of stimulus checks given to Americans.

Jose Rodriguez Marmol Operations Manager for Reurban Urban Property Management provided insight on how this has been affecting his residents specifically those who were forced to leave because of nonpayment of rent.

“We live in a country where everything is based on credit so how can someone that is evicted or sent to collections for a very huge amount of money for past due rent are going to be able to make their ends meet later on?”

“How are they are going to rent an apartment or purchase a home later on?”

Morgan Jones and Ashley Elsen discuss how they are helping their tenants stay housed during the pandemic

Ashely Elsen Assistant Property Manager and Morgan Jones Property Manager for Birge & Helm Properties shared their experiences of working in the housing industry during the pandemic.

“It was a little rough and hard to adjust,” Jones stated.

“The eviction process changed more or less we could fine evictions but if they filed for the moratorium protection we weren’t allowed to move forward,” Elsen explained “Judges gave them stay of eviction as long as they adhered to the moratorium the best they could they were allowed to stay…the moratorium just more or less stated that you had to do your best toward rent owed but if you couldn’t we weren’t moving forward with evictions.”

 However, on March 11th  Federal Judge J. Philip Calabrese of Ohio ruled that the eviction moratorium was unconstitutional and the eviction proceeding began on April 1st in the state of Ohio which included those renters who have been waiting on assistance for months.

“We work with the Community Action Agency…they’re very helpful but the residents have to get approval through them and show proof through them to get assistance,” Jones explained

Community Action Agency| Hamilton County is where the rental assistance applications are being taken in Hamilton County along with assistance in Utilities, Home Assistance, and other services. When speaking to Danielle Horsley a 27-year-old Cincinnati, Ohio resident and activist who has been waiting on rental assistance since June.

Danielle Horsley expressed concerns about the inaction of local officials and activists alike

“The landlords are not going to wait their turn, they are still going to file for eviction if we can’t pay the rent,” Horsley expressed her frustration of not knowing if the assistance she needs will arrive in time.

“We need to explain to them that there is help available, however, that help is not going to be available within a week or two. It takes a long time, they need to file paperwork, they need to fill out an application, they need to submit a copy of their lease agreement and [in] the same way the landlord has to fill out documents as well, stating how they owe in back rent,” Rodriguez Marmol stated when asked about the process to file for protection.

United States Supreme Court voted 6-3 to not extend the eviction moratorium on the federal level on August 26th outrage and protests across major cities across the country. The most notable was the efforts of Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri who slept on the Capitol steps to protest the decision and urged her fellow members of Congress to pass an extension, as there were only 5.2 billion of the 45 billion dollars of The Emergency Relief Fund that were distributed. Many states that the third-party contractors used to handle the applications are to blame. Many states have also reported website and system issues leaving renters with little options to file an application.

The Federal Eviction Moratorium was extended to October 3rd thanks to the efforts of Rep Cori Bush, and through the month of September, states worked overtime to distribute funds Newsweek reported that 35 billion of the 45 billion emergency rental assistance fund was distributed as of October 6th. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi placed a bid to attempt to extend the rental moratorium until October 18th but was rejected by congress 220-212.

Cincinnati is having a change of mind about evictions announcing that a Pay to Stay ordinance to keep renters in their homes. It has been reported that the Community Action Agency Cincinnati has $41 million dollars left to distribute and this ordnance will slow the process of evictions and give landlords and tenants the proper assistance. This is great news for Horsley and others waiting on their application to process for months. Data collected by Eviction Lab showed that since March after the decision to end the rent moratorium in Ohio. There has been a total of 13,844 evictions filed and counting in Cincinnati since the rent moratorium lifted in March of this year.

“I am fortunate not to have payment issues with my tenant, but I can’t help to wonder where the assistance for the landlords too. We use the money from the tenants to pay taxes, property upkeep, and other needs without that how are we supposed to keep things going?” Erica Ervin asked. She has a home in Youngstown, Ohio that she rents. Though she is fortunate not to have issues with non-payment, others have not fared as well. CNBC reported that individual landlords are having issues receiving federal assistance as well and are still expected to pay the mortgages and other bills on the property forcing many small landlords to sell their properties.

COVID-19 has brought many issues to the forefront, supply chain issues, the great resignation amongst, and the housing crisis all of which are far from being resolved however the fight to stay housed will continue.

For Rental Assistance Information Please Visit:

Cincinnati:

Community Action Agency | Cincinnati-Hamilton County

Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Cincinnati

Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority

National:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to get affordable rental housing

Rental Assistance | National Low Income Housing Coalition

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