4 Takeaways from the Federal Eviction Moratorium
September 7, 2021 Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz
Aerial view of our Renaissance Square affordable housing buildings.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz is the founder and principal of the architectural firm Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón, with offices in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

THE FEDERAL EVICITON MORATORIUM HAS RAISED MANY QUESTIONS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced it will extend the federal eviction moratorium through October 3, 2021, in order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

According to the CDC, the new moratorium will help keep renters safely and stably housed, it will give state and local governments more time to distribute Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) to households in need, and it will help further increase vaccination rates.

Eviction moratoria facilitates self-quarantine and keeps people who become ill or who are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 out of congregate settings and in their own homes. It’s also important to note that the moratorium does not relieve renters from their obligation to pay rent.

1. CHALLENGES

Even though the moratorium allows for renters to continue to have a home, it does create problems for both tenants and landlords.

The most common problem is that many tenants don’t know that they can apply or how to apply for rental assistance. The online application also makes it difficult for tenants who are not tech savvy or don’t have internet access to fill it out. Additionally, the application isn’t mobile-friendly and not everyone has a desktop computer that they can use to easily navigate to fill out the application.

According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), over 11 million renters are behind on their rental payments. This puts them at risk of losing their homes if they don’t get emergency rental assistance. In turn, landlords lose revenue since they rely on rent money to maintain their properties.

Due to this rent money deficit, landlords have had to change their operations. Some have had to leave apartments empty either because they’re fearful of non-paying tenants or because they can’t pay for necessary repairs and renovations. Others are now buying properties in more affluent neighborhoods or have refrained from buying new properties altogether.

2. CONCERN FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Landlords worry that if low-income tenants are not able to pay rent once the moratorium lifts and end up being evicted from their homes, that this could end up decreasing affordable housing availability. This is because potential investors could buy the property, renovate it, and rent it at higher market rates, making it impossible for affordable housing tenants to stay.

3. WILL THERE BE AN EVICTION WAVE?

Housing attorneys have said that there had already been a rise in eviction filings. While housing advocates expect the wave of evictions to build slowly over the coming weeks and months.

One of the main reasons is because the emergency rental relief has been very slow to be distributed since only 3 billion out of the 46 billion in rental relief has been allocated by the federal government. According to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, the country is gearing up for evictions to return to pre-pandemic levels, a time when 3.7 million people were displaced from their homes every year.

On the other hand, there’s research that shows that while eviction rates are likely to increase, a wave of evictions doesn’t appear likely. Even though eviction risk is higher for lower income properties, the risk is mitigated by the rollout of federal emergency rental assistance programs.

4. IT ALL DEPENDS

Basically, the number of evictions will depend on the pace of the relief distribution, economic recovery, and the decisions landlords make during and after the moratorium lifts when it comes to selling their properties and deciding whether to evict tenants.

This is why it’s essential that assistance gets to renters so that they make sure people will be able to stay in their homes.

FURTHER READING: A GUIDE TO PUERTO RICO’S RECOVERY FUNDS PART 2

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