Law Center Helps Win New Eviction Moratorium But More Must Be Done
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues but the unemployment benefits and eviction moratorium from the CARES Act expired earlier this summer, the Law Center has been working with its federal partners to ensure the millions of renters impacted by the COVID-induced economic crisis do not become homeless. In September, the Centers for Disease Control, recognizing the potentially devastating health impacts of mass evictions, issued a new national moratorium on evictions until January 1, 2020.
While this this a necessary first step in the absence of other action, more action is desperately needed. The House passed the HEROES Act in May, which provides $100 billion in emergency rental assistance $11.5 billion in other homeless assistance, $1 billion for 100,000 new emergency housing vouchers, $75 billion for a Homeowner Assistance Fund, as well as a variety of other smaller programs and a new, uniform, 12-month national moratorium on evictions. However, the Senate has not only failed to pass the HEROES Act, but instead only offered a much smaller “skinny” bill which contained no housing assistance, and which failed this past week to garner the 60 votes necessary to pass.
Without additional income or housing assistance, 30-40 million renters are estimated to be at risk of eviction, and the CDC moratorium only postpones the inevitable. Out of work renters will not be able to pay the 4 months or more of back rent they will owe by January, even if they regain employment. While the price tag is significant, an ounce of preventing homelessness will be worth a pound of cure later, especially as the potential health impacts of eviction are taken into account. The Law Center will continue its advocacy, and calls on its supporters to contact their Senators and demand #RentReliefNow!
Partial Victory In Philadelphia, But Threat Looms
The Law Center celebrates a partial victory for its partners in Philadelphia, where it has been providing key technical and legal assistance to organizers in a protest encampment that launched from the racial justice protests earlier this summer, as well as to city agencies seeking to close the encampment.
The organizers filed a request for a temporary restraining order preventing the city from evicting the encampment. Although the request was denied, the judge did require at least 72 hours’ notice be provided before an eviction could take place. Additionally, as a result of the campers demands, the city has committed to:
- Adding 900-1,400 new long-term housing units over the next 12-24 months, mostly using federal CARES ESG funds;
- Piloting a Tiny House Village; expanding SROs, Shallow Rent, and Shared Housing programs;
- Committing that no one who is in the COVID Prevention (hotel) Spaces will be returned to homelessness;
- Making 62 vacant properties available to nonprofits for acquisition for people who are unhoused and/or have extremely low incomes and working with those who have occupied vacant PHA houses on permanent housing solutions.
While we commend these positive steps to which the city has committed for resolving homelessness in the longer term, they do not meet organizers’ demands for permanent housing solutions for the encampment residents, or even for individual temporary housing options which would be consistent with the CDC guidance on encampments first issued in March.
Sterling Johnson, representative of the encampment residents, shared the following statement: “The city has not engaged able bodied residents that do not meet the CARES COVID criteria and have not engaged around making sure that housing prices stop surging as they have over the last ten years. We are looking for permanent solutions that make a place for low income people now and into the future. The city has provided solutions with curfews, drug tests and no guest policies. Those are not permanent housing solutions. We are committed to collective liberation. We are committed to black liberation.”
As of the time of publication, the city had again posted notice of an impending eviction which did not occur at the posted time, but encampment residents fear will occur with little warning. The Law Center will continue working with all parties with hopes of a positive resolution for all involved.