A call for community action to avert an eviction crisis

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As community members, we all recognize the imperative for people’s basic human needs to be met — housing, food, clothing, belonging, identity, and safety.  We all somehow attempt to address these needs through our respective ways of serving our community. 

The current crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our collective sense of what it means to look out for one another in ways not considered before.  

One such example is the looming issue of mass evictions.  At some point, the various moratoria (state-issued and CDC-issued are among the most notable) will term out, and households that are not current on rent payments will likely face eviction.  This is not an issue of renters vs. landlords, as we know that those whose livelihood depends upon the provision of rental units in exchange for payment are also being severely impacted by the pandemic in a way that further impacts our economy.

Here’s what we know:

  • Pierce County is experiencing historic unemployment rates in 2020 that have been as high as 18.7%, and continues to remain high at 10.1% as of August. This is resulting in thousands of families who are unable to find stable employment and afford rent.
  • There are currently 46,419 residents unemployed in Pierce County, 24,000 more than our average unemployment rate. If only 30% of these individuals were unable to find some other way to pay their rent and the average was $3,000 to help cover three months in arrears, these individuals would need access to $41 million in rental assistance. This is far greater than assistance that is currently available.
  • On a statewide basis, a PULSE report from the U.S. Census Bureau in mid-September found that 139,706 households in Washington are not current on rent — that’s about 70% from the beginning of the month (198,216) who still were struggling to pay rent. Black households are 5 times more likely to be behind on rent. And more than 18% of households have little to no confidence that they will be able to pay rent at the end of September.
  • Small housing providers who rent out their house or condo account for half of the rental housing supply in America and thousands of rental homes in Pierce County. Unlike corporations and banks, these individuals cannot weather extended loss of rental income, and they will face bankruptcy and foreclosure if they don’t have the income to pay taxes and the mortgage to the bank. When those types of foreclosures happen, homes typically revert back to owner-occupancy when the bank puts it up for auction.

These properties are not restricted to affordable housing units.  People up and down the economic scale have been affected by the pandemic’s impact on the economy and could be facing eviction for not being current on their rent once the various moratoria are lifted. 

In 2019 — before COVID-19 — roughly 40% of Americans said they would struggle to come up with $400 to pay for an unexpected bill. And according to recent 2020 data, the average renter household in America has roughly $10,000 in savings and liquid assets. The average homeowner has roughly $56,000 in savings. On one end of this bell curve, people struggle to meet daily expenses, barely making it from paycheck to paycheck, and don’t have anything in the way of savings.

Washington state’s eviction moratorium is scheduled to expire on October 15, 2020. The moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) covers fewer households and would expire on December 31, 2020.

The time for our community to discuss potential solutions to this threat is now.

In the spirit of community,

Pam

If you have ideas for how our community should address the potential eviction crisis, please send us your ideas at impact@mdc-hope.org.