Tag Archives: tenants

Tenants are Facing Eviction Across America

New Orleans       Recession is here.  Layoffs are in the millions.  The service industry is hammered.  Small businesses are underwater, while the Senate Republicans are only listening to big corporations.  Trump is trying to elbow Dr. Fauci out of the way for getting too much attention as a truthteller at his fabricated daily press conferences spinning out whatever comes to mind in his happy valley.  I have to admit, he tricked me for a minute, as well.  When he said he was halting evictions nationally, I thought he was talking about tenants.  It turns out he had conflated the terms “evictions” and “foreclosures.”  He was ordering a temporary halt to foreclosures for homeowners.  HUD has frozen evictions for public housing tenants, but otherwise the federal government is silent on the fate of forty million tenants across the country.

Other countries where ACORN works have acted on our demands for tenants.  The United Kingdom has frozen evictions.  Canada has taken action.  France has halted evictions.  In the United States, once again, leadership has defaulted to states and cities, but the pattern is patchy and in many cases the relief is extremely short term and undefined.

At the state level, California has halted evictions until May 31st.  Delaware has “paused” until May 1st, while Illinois has paused until April 8th.  Indiana has stopped evictions “until the crisis is over.” Louisiana has stepped up and stopped all evictions indefinitely.  Maryland has acted “only for tenants related to the virus.”  Massachusetts has blocked evictions.  Michigan has done so until April 17th.  New Hampshire has stopped them, and New Jersey has haled for sixty days.  New York has stood tall and said none for three months.  North Carolina has said thirty days.  Pennsylvania has stopped them only for a minute until April 3rd.  Rhode Island is in for thirty days, as is Texas and Washington.  Virginia has blocked until April 8th.  Maybe I’m missing something, but my rough count is some action from almost nothing to three months has been taken by seventeen states, and, yes, the District of Columbia has suspended, and absolutely nothing has been done in thirty-three states.  Some cities have done much better, but it’s not a  huge parade there either.

Don’t get me wrong according to various websites, some of them are talking about it and even thinking about it, but people are hurting and worrying, and they are fiddling.  Most of this data, I found at a website connected to something called fool.com, which gives a sense to all of us of who is really keeping track.

This jigsaw puzzle is actually why we have a federal government and need a president or someone around there to take action and remember that tenants count too, not just the big boys with the three-piece suits.  That is something we need to put on our list for later.

In the meantime, we need to stop evictions now!

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Please enjoy Gordon_Lightfoot_Solo_Oh_So_Sweet_

Thanks to WAMF.

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The Dollars Driving Landlords to Evict Aren’t Big Time

Little Rock      The landlord ideology about tenants is based on a narrative mythology that whenever they evict, it is because their tenants are deadbeats and scofflaws.  Landlords having powerful local and national organizations and a much louder voice than their tenants have been selling this swill for centuries.  Researchers are now digging deeper into the real facts, not the “alternative” facts, and finding that a significant number of evictions are, in their view, based on relatively paltry sums.

A story in the New York Times recently highlighted the fact that there are a significant number of families that are evicted for sums that are less than $600.  Note that that’s $600 all-in, including rent owed, late fees, court costs, etc., much of which is larded onto the rent owed, meaning that the actual rent that led to this crisis, potentially making a family homeless, was way, way less.

Before we get much deeper into this eviction situation, let’s note that this is about as far from a surprise as knowing that dawn comes the day after dusk.  When the Federal Reserve banking survey in May 2019 widely reported finding that 40% of Americans did not have $400 in cash or credit to deal with any financial emergency, whether health, transportation, or whatever, it was obvious that at least that number would potentially face eviction if they were facing a $600 notice from their landlord and his gang.

The Times notes that in Virginia 23% of eviction judgements were less than $600, in North Carolina 32% of the judgements were for sums that low, Delaware 20%, and Rhode Island at 8% were also in that range.  The median money judgement was higher, about $1200, inclusive.

This is the tip of the iceberg.  The data underlying these numbers comes from Lexis/Nexus as verified by the Princeton Eviction Lab, which notoriously undercounts the number of real evictions because the figures are drawn from legal proceedings.  Matthew Desmond, the head of the Eviction Lab, acknowledged this flatly in his widely read book and award-winning book, Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in America.  The vast majority of evictions never end up in court filings and certainly not in actual judgments.  Suffice it to say, the numbers of de facto, rather than de jure, evictions are much, much higher.

If a family doesn’t have $400, then $600 is a higher mountain.  It may look like peanuts, through the window from the outside, but looking at that figure from the family’s viewpoint, it might as well be millions.  Some legislators are proposing an emergency rent fund.  Others seem to think that talk, rather than money, will solve this problem, and have proposed more mediation between landlords and tenants.  The experts acknowledge that the problem is structural, but are trying to carve out at least a Band-Aid solution to deal with this gaping wound.

The problem is bigger than this of course.  The Times notes that “between 1990 and 2017, the national stock of rental housing grew by 10.9 million units…Over the same time, the number of units renting for less than $600 a month in inflation-adjusted dollars fell by 4 million.   All net growth in rent housing in America, in other words, has been for higher-income tenants.”

The solution here is higher wages, a better welfare system, and a real national housing policy for low-and-moderate income families, but the policy proposals tend to skew towards throwing pennies at the wall, rather than putting dollars in peoples’ pockets and roofs over their heads.  The proposals are packaged to save public authorities money by preventing the higher costs of shelters and homelessness.  They might sell this to some, but families facing evictions won’t buy it, and neither should we settle there.

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