End of federal moratorium on evictions set to hit Atlanta subway tenants hard

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The end of the moratorium will not affect all counties in the same way. Some virtually ignored it all along, while in DeKalb a judge had ordered a separate county-wide moratorium. This order could continue for several more weeks.

About 800,000 households rent in the Atlanta subway. And while a Census Bureau survey earlier this summer found that about one in five households in Georgia struggled to pay their rent, there is no reliable data on how many households are actually at risk.

The CDC’s moratorium was part of a series that began in March 2020 when Congress acted to prevent unemployed workers from being kicked out of their homes as the pandemic raged. Unprecedented interventions in the rental market have reduced the number of half eviction cases, according to the Princeton University eviction lab.

Many tenants did not understand the process or even knew about the moratorium, others were in counties that were unaware of the ban. And landlords were not prevented from evicting tenants for reasons unrelated to the pandemic.

But the owners argued that the time for drastic measures is over.

The Georgia Association of Realtors said in a statement Friday that the court ruling marks a necessary return to a healthy housing market, in part because nearly half of the nation’s homeowners are “mom and pop” operations, and not huge companies with deep pockets.

“These owners have borne the brunt of the financial hardship caused by the lack of rental income for a year and a half,” the statement said.

The federal government allocated $ 46 billion in rent assistance, money intended for landlords of tenants who could not afford rent due to financial problems associated with the pandemic. This week, the State Department of Community Affairs, which previously limited rent assistance to small counties, said it was making hundreds of millions of dollars in aid available to anyone in Georgia.

But it was the distribution that posed the problem: in Georgia, less than 10% of the money had been spent as of July 31, according to the US Department of the Treasury.

This mismatch has left many tenants vulnerable, said Mara Block, senior counsel for Atlanta Legal Aid. “I have a case with a tenant who moved in with the landlord in May and the county just didn’t write the check. We are trying to renegotiate everything.

In the places where the money is spent, it makes a crucial difference, said Protip Biswas, vice president for homelessness at United Way of Greater Atlanta.

In the city of Atlanta, $ 12 million was allocated in the last round, and $ 9.8 million was spent and 1,850 families kept their homes, he said. “Lifting the moratorium means we must prepare to welcome more homeless families in the fall. “

To exploreBetween apartments and the street: motels may not have room for evictions

The rent assistance and the moratorium were both intended as stopgaps, ways to prevent evictions until the virus was overcome and the economy rebounded. But now the virus is spreading rapidly again, the labor market has not fully recovered, and many workers are looking for jobs.

“Even though they’ve found work, a lot of people fell behind on rent months ago and are in arrears with their payments, even though they can pay their rent now,” said Sarah Stein, advisor. research with the community economic development team at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. . “The need is enormous and we hoped that if we had the moratorium until October, it would give them time to increase rent assistance. “

The number of people actually evicted from their homes in the coming weeks will not be clear for a long time, if at all, Stein said.

“But I bet if you drive on the Atlanta subway you’ll see a lot of sofas on the sidewalk,” she added.


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