Bracing for a New Eviction Crisis
A crisis of eviction that was simmering well before the COVID-19 pandemic began is set to boil over as eviction protections instituted during the crisis begin to expire, as the New York Times reported this week. Nationwide, evictions are still paused for tenants whose landlords have mortgages backed by the federal government until at least July 25, as Next City previously reported. But many state and local eviction protections are beginning to expire, with evictions already starting again in places like Texas and Oklahoma, according to the New York Times report. Additionally, the report notes, some states, like Ohio, never implemented strict eviction moratoria. For tenants who were already vulnerable before the pandemic, and who may have lost work and income during the crisis, the expiration of eviction moratoria could mean sudden homelessness if they can’t quickly and consistently pay current and past-due rent.
“That means more and more families may soon experience the dreaded eviction notice on the front door, the stomach-turning knock from sheriff’s deputies, the possessions piled up on the sidewalk,” writes reporter Sarah Mervosh. “They will face displacement at a time when people are still being urged to stay at home to keep themselves and their communities safe.”
In addition to threatening the well-being of evicted individuals, any uptick in homelessness would also be a public-health concern, considering the exposure that people face in congregate homeless shelters. Efforts to pressure Congress to pass a $100 billion rental-assistance package may not go very far, according to the Times. And advocates are preparing for the worst.
Budget Cuts Threaten Affordable Housing Projects in New York
Affordable-housing developers in New York City are worried that steep cuts to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s budget could delay or kill housing projects that have been in the works for years, Politico reports. The Department, which helps subsidize affordable-housing projects, is facing a 40 percent cut under a budget plan introduced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to the report. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Department has stopped issuing “soft commitment letters” for projects that are likely to get city financing, the report says, which has delayed some projects in the development pipeline. Housing advocates say the cuts would hurt efforts to keep people housed during a time when those efforts are needed the most, and the cuts have been opposed by affordable-housing developers and groups like the New York Housing Conference. Developers worry that financing delays could jeopardize some projects altogether.
“The risk here is we have a project that we’ve been working on for two or three years, the plans are approved. If we have to just put things on the shelf for a few months, I just don’t know what the [private] investor is going to do,” David Cleghorn, chief housing officer at HELP USA, told Politico. “That’s the real concern, is that you start to see equity leave the market, which then creates more need for subsidy.”
In Philadelphia, too, housing advocates were worried that proposed budget cuts would put more people at risk of homelessness, as WHYY reported.
San Antonio Housing Authority Offering Rental Assistance
Almost a quarter of public-housing residents in San Antonio were late on rent in April, said David Nisivoccia, president and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority, in an interview with Texas Public Radio. But the Authority has started several programs to help keep residents stable. The Authority contributed $350,000 and staff support to the City of San Antonio’s COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Program, which aids some public-housing residents. And it is also offering 25 percent rent forgiveness for residents who can show financial hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Authority suspended rental late fees and evictions in March, before the nationwide eviction moratorium for federally funded housing, Nisivoccia said in the interview. Public-housing residents and residents with housing vouchers — some 25,000 families in San Antonio — are protected from eviction through at least August 23, the report says. The median income for a resident of SAHA housing is around $10,000 a year, according to a press release. Residents also have the chance to negotiate repayment plans, a policy that was in place prior to the pandemic, according to the press release. The San Antonio Housing Authority is in the middle of a massive expansion of its mixed-income housing holdings, as Next City reported last year.
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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.