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Evictions set to increase after federal moratorium ends

BOSTON (AP) – Evictions, which have mostly been on hiatus during the pandemic, are expected to intensify on Monday after a federal moratorium expires as housing courts increasingly deal with cases and tenants are excluded from their accommodation.

Housing advocates fear that ending the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium could result in millions of people being evicted in the weeks to come. But most expect deposits to increase in the coming days rather than a wave of evictions.

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The Biden administration announced Thursday that it would allow a nationwide ban to expire. He argued his hands were tied after the US Supreme Court signaled that the moratorium would only be extended until the end of the month.

House lawmakers on Friday attempted, but ultimately failed, to pass a bill to extend the moratorium, even by a few months. Some Democratic lawmakers had wanted it extended until the end of the year.

“Distressed tenants are now facing a health crisis and an eviction crisis,” said Alicia Mazzara, senior research analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Without the CDC’s moratorium, millions of people risk being evicted or becoming homeless, increasing their exposure to COVID as cases rise across the country. The effects will fall heavily on people of color, especially black and Latino communities, who face a greater risk of deportation and more barriers to vaccination. “

More than 15 million people live in households that owe their owners up to $ 20 billion, according to the Aspen Institute. As of July 5, about 3.6 million people in the United States said they were at risk of deportation over the next two months, according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Parts of the south and other areas where tenant protection is weaker will likely experience the biggest peaks, and communities of color where vaccination rates are sometimes lower will be the hardest hit. But advocates say this crisis is likely to have a wider impact than the pre-pandemic evictions.

The Biden administration had hoped the historic amounts of rent assistance allocated by Congress in December and March would help avert a deportation crisis. But the distribution has been painfully slow. So far, only about $ 3 billion of the first $ 25 billion has been distributed through June by states and communities. Another $ 21.5 billion will go to the states.

Ashley Phonsyry, 22, who will be in court Thursday for an eviction hearing after losing several thousand dollars in her two-bedroom apartment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, said her landlord refused to take rent assistance. She quit her job after being injured in an incident of domestic violence and suffering from depression and anxiety. The deportation hearing takes place a day after her domestic violence case was brought to court.

“It frustrates me and scares me,” she said of her deportation. “I try so hard to get it right and it just doesn’t seem like it’s enough.”

Across the country, courts, lawyers and law enforcement are bracing for evictions to return to pre-pandemic levels, at a time when 3.7 million people were displaced from their homes each year , or seven every minute, according to the foreclosure lab at Princeton University.

In Saint-Louis, the sheriff’s office manages evictions ordered by the court. Sheriff Vernon Betts said 126 evictions have been ordered and are only awaiting the end of the moratorium. His office plans to apply around 30 evictions per day starting August 9.

Betts know there will soon be hundreds of more orders. He has already been contacted by countless homeowners who have not yet filed for eviction, but are considering doing so. And he expected to increase his numbers.

“We already know that we already have around 126 planned evictions. What we plan to do is triple our two-man squad, ”he said. “Right from the start, we want to clean up these 126 evictions. “

Sgt. William Brown, who heads the evictions unit at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, said he didn’t know how quickly evictions would increase after the moratorium ends. There are several more steps that owners need to go through before they can evict. But he said there was no doubt many more people would be forced to leave, drawing up statistics that show the sharp drop in evictions since the start of the pandemic: nearly 4,000 in 2018 and 2019, then a sharp drop. drops to around 1,900 in 2020.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” he said. “I think once the evictions are over there is no longer a moratorium in place, it’s going to really turn out badly.”

“It’s the most difficult position I’ve ever been in because at the end of the day I have empathy and sympathy. I am required by state law to do this, ”he said. “You’ve got to feel for these people… watching little children go through all of this, this whole process.”

Lee Camp, an attorney with the St. Louis ArchCity Defenders legal group, said the vast majority of tenants facing eviction do not have a lawyer, often because they cannot afford one. Meanwhile, he said, deportation cases move quickly to Missouri courts, often within weeks.

“The scales of justice are right at this incredible imbalance,” Camp said.

In Wisconsin, Heiner Giese, legal counsel for the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin, said his trade association for rental property owners in the Milwaukee area has been “very firm in urging our members and all landlords to do not expel “.

“I believe pretty strongly in the feedback we get from our members in the Milwaukee area… there won’t be this giant eviction tsunami,” Giese said.

Still, Colleen Foley, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, said she “certainly” expects a slight hike. She said 161 evictions were filed last week, a significant increase from previous weeks when filings tended to hover between 100 and 120. She said she was waiting to see when these cases would go to court. .

Associated Press editors Jim Salter in St. Louis and Doug Glass in Minneapolis contributed to this report.


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