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As Moratoriums Start to Lift, Preparing for an Eviction Wave

Tenant organizers and legal services groups are working vigorously to get ahead of eviction cases as housing court processes restart.
July 3, 2020, 7am PDT | LM_Ortiz
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Moms 4 Housing
Moms 4 Housing gathers after being evicted by Alameda County Sheriffs in January 2020.
Denisha DeLane

Though many advocates are working on extensions, eviction moratoriums across the country are drawing closer to an end, though extreme levels of unemployment continue. While the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s moratorium on single-family home foreclosures and evictions from properties it owns has been extended to at least Aug. 31, the broader CARES Act moratorium on eviction filings for subsidized properties and those with federally backed mortgages still expires on July 25, and the patchwork of state and local moratoriums varies widely in length and coverage.

It is difficult to keep track of moratorium expirations around the country, especially because moratoriums are often extended very shortly before they are scheduled to expire. According to Eviction Lab’s scorecard as of mid-June, there are 17 states that, at one point during the pandemic, had a statewide moratorium but now do not, including Louisiana, Tennessee, Colorado, and Texas. An additional six states never had a statewide moratorium, including Georgia, Ohio, and Missouri. Many cities also had local versions that differ from their states, if their state has one, in length or strength.

Advocates have been fearing the wave of eviction proceedings that would overtake housing courts once moratoriums were lifted. A May 28 report from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy estimates that without a substantial infusion of resources or new legislation, 120,000 families, including 184,000 children, are likely to become homeless in Los Angeles County alone in the next few months.

In fact, eviction proceedings were already rising prior to states’ moratoriums being lifted. Few moratoriums cover all the phases of eviction, from notice to filing to removal. In places where the earlier steps are not covered and housing courts have reopened, eviction cases filed since March are proceeding. That means many may have reached the stage of actually removing tenants by the time that is legally allowed again.

While they are still hoping that large-scale rent relief or forgiveness will come through to make it less necessary, housing advocates and tenant organizing groups are working tirelessly to brace for the evictions surge, preparing a range of responses.

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Published on Saturday, July 25, 2020 in Shelterforce Magazine
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