When large portions of the U.S. economy shut down in March, pushing millions of Americans into unemployment, a patchwork of state and federal eviction bans were enacted to keep people in their homes.
Now those protections are vanishing. And some fear another crisis will follow.
Twenty-five-year-old Pea Nunez, who lost her job at a marketing agency, says it is impossible for her and her two roommates to pay the $3200 monthly rent on the home they share near downtown Los Angeles.
"Financially the pandemic has affected me, because even though I'm receiving unemployment it's still not the same amount that I was before. My rent is about 30 percent of my income was before the pandemic."
While California’s eviction ban remains in place until September 30, moratoriums have already expired in 29 states and are about to lapse in others.
As many as 28 million people could be evicted in coming months, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, a national research center on evictions. That’s nearly triple the estimated 10 million Americans who lost their homes during the years after the 2008 mortgage crisis.
Public health and housing experts say such a massive displacement of renters would be unprecedented in modern history. In addition to the hardship that comes with losing one’s home, some fear evictions could advance the public health crisis as the newly homeless are forced into shelters or tight quarters with relatives, increasing the risk of spread of COVID-19.
Landlords say the pandemic is a crisis for them as well. The CEO of the National Apartment Association told Reuters eviction is always a “last resort,” but “the rental housing industry alone cannot bear the financial burden of the pandemic.” He said nearly half the country’s landlords are mom-and-pop operators who have invested in rental property for retirement income.
Back in L.A., Nunez and her roommates stopped paying rent as of April 1st but hope they have come up with a way to avoid eviction.
"So, what we're thinking is maybe we're going to do, you know, like my friend, my roommate, who's a musician, will probably do like a session on Zoom and fundraise that way. I’ll probably also do something similar with my art. If everything fails, we'll probably have to get into a payment plan with the landlord."
Last week, protesters rallied outside the home of California senate majority leader Bob Hertzberg, demanding passage of local bill that would keep people in their homes.