Evictions now: Millions of US citizens are threatened with homelessness

Evictions from now on
Millions of US citizens are threatened with homelessness

From Roland Peters

For nearly a year, tenants in the US were banned from being evicted from their homes due to arrears. The protection no longer applies. Around 15 percent of all renting households are affected. MPs sleep in protest in front of the Capitol.

Tenants in the United States could face an historic wave of evictions. A nationwide moratorium expired at the weekend that the CDC anti-epidemic agency had imposed in September last year. A final initiative in Congress to extend the measure had previously failed. The parliamentarians now have a summer break until September 20th. By then, many evictions could have been carried out. At the beginning of July, 3.6 million people assumed that they would lose their homes by then.

The ruling Democrats shift responsibility to one another. MP Cori Bush said her party colleagues “would rather go on vacation than stay for a vote that will keep millions of people home”. In protest, Bush slept with MPs Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, as well as activists, from Friday to Saturday in front of the Capitol, the parliament building in Washington DC. They wanted to force a roll-call vote by MPs.

Bush has personal experiences with homelessness. Before her time as a politician, she and her two children were left without a home. “I know what it feels like and I don’t want this trauma to anyone,” she said. Bush has been a member of the House of Representatives since the beginning of the year and belongs to the left wing of the party.

MP Cori Bush speaks to Congress about the expiring moratorium.

(Photo: REUTERS)

For almost a year, tenants could not be thrown out of their apartments and houses for lack of rent payments. However, the landlords were still allowed to file eviction lawsuits. Around 15 million people are now at risk of losing their homes; 6.2 million families are in arrears with a total of $ 23 billion. That’s about 15 percent of all US households that rent. The situation is particularly precarious in the southern states, where poverty is more widespread than elsewhere; for example in South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. In some counties there, every fourth household is affected.

Help does not arrive

Actually, aid from the government in Washington for the states that were granted many months ago should be enough. Around 47 billion dollars for tenants and owners should avert the crisis. However, only $ 3 billion of that was paid out. Firstly, this is due to the complicated and slow application process. There is no excuse for states and municipalities that fail to pass on help to tenants and owners, Biden said last Friday. But a second cause is that half of the indebted 6.2 million households earn more than they are allowed to in order to receive the aid. Only a fraction of the applications are approved.

There are no official statistics on eviction claims that have already been filed nationwide. Princeton University researchers are trying to use all available data to gather. Accordingly, more than 450,000 eviction suits have been received in the 6 states and 31 cities examined since September last year. In New York City there are more than 63,000. There the lawsuits could quickly multiply: 400,000 households owe their landlords a total of 2 billion dollars. In addition, there are another 44 states, of which data are known at most at the city level.

It often only takes a few weeks from the lawsuit to the forced move-out. Enforcement may be delayed due to the number of accrued lawsuits. Five states and Washington DC have also personally extended the moratorium. In New York it is valid until the end of August, in California until the end of September. In the most populous state in the United States, the government also pays the rent.

In other parts of the country, the police will be able to enforce evictions from today, Monday. If authorities and NGOs cannot find a solution to the stagnating aid payments, the result could be the biggest housing crisis since the Great Recession from 2008/09. At that time, the bank crash drove millions of families out of their apartments and houses, tent cities with homeless people sprang up from the ground. The then US President Barack Obama – and his Vice President Joe Biden – are still being accused of not having reacted adequately to the extent of the crisis.


Already experienced the Great Recession in the White House: US President Joe Biden

(Photo: imago images / ZUMA Wire)

In particular, lower income groups have rental debts. Earnings in the service sector have decreased due to the pandemic. The people also have no financial reserves to compensate for the loss of income. Those who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic are particularly often in arrears. The risk for black and African-American US citizens is also twice as high as for their white compatriots. In the particularly affected southern states, the laws are also very landlord-friendly. In Mississippi, for example, tenants can be evacuated on the day of the judgment, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Areas with low vaccination rates

The moratorium was introduced by the CDC to prevent the virus from spreading. Where a particularly large number of eviction lawsuits were filed up to June, a below-average number of people were vaccinated, one showed analysis Mid-June. The new infection rates are currently increasing rapidly among unvaccinated people because of the delta variant of the virus. The government is trying, among other things, with influencers on social media to convince people of the vaccination.

Numerous Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, the parliamentary group leader in the House of Representatives, have called on President Biden to extend the eviction moratorium. MEPs Cori Bush and colleagues also wrote a letter to Biden and the CDC boss, calling on them to do everything possible to prevent an “historic and fatal wave of evictions”. “We cannot hold the Republicans responsible because the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives,” said left-wing Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Some Democrats had the scheme do not want to extend. “What a devastating failure in the crisis,” said the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a lobby group for affordable housing.

The internal party conflict was also sparked by the fact that only last Thursday the White House delegated the problem to Congress with reference to a ruling by the Supreme Court; two days before the moratorium expired and the parliamentary break was scheduled to begin. The Supreme Court, which is dominated by conservative judges, had already ruled in the previous extension of the regulation that the next time Congress would have to make a “clear and unambiguous” decision. Otherwise the Supreme Court would block the measure.