America’s Looming Eviction Crisis

October 2020

NACA Podcast

America’s Looming Eviction Crisis

Millions of people are currently out of work due to the pandemic. At least 40 million people are facing evictions by the end of the year.  On this edition of NACA’s American Dream Podcast, we discuss America’s Looming Eviction Crisis.


Podcast Guests

Sarah Saadian is the Vice President of Public Policy for the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). The NLIHC is dedicated to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.

Veronica Horne, a veteran who is suffering with PTSD, was evicted by Invitation Homes on the same day when the Executive Order came out.

American Dream Podcast is a production of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), fighting for economic justice through affordable homeownership and community advocacy.

  • Producer/Researcher/Audio Editor: Francisco Garcia
  • Host: Tim Trumble


Transcript:

Tim Trumble: Welcome to this edition of the American Dream Podcast. A production of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, fighting for economic justice through affordable homeownership and community advocacy.

Before the pandemic put the United States on a lockdown in March, the US economy was gaining around 200,000 jobs a month. However, after the pandemic struck, that changed dramatically. By April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we lost a record 20.8 million jobs. Since then, the jobs have started to come back slowly. The Unemployment Rate fell to around 10% in July, with millions getting their jobs back. But this only tells half of the story. According to a new study by the research organization Eviction Lab, at least 40 million people are facing evictions by the end of the year. As an example, in just 17 cities where they closely monitored evictions, they found that over 43,000 people had already been evicted from their homes. To the relief of millions, the president Trump has recently ordered the Center for Disease Control to issue a 4 month eviction moratorium which would prevent people from being evicted from their homes.

To give us a better perspective on the moratorium and this eviction crisis in general,we are joined by Sarah Saadian, Vice President of Public Policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The NLIHC is dedicated to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.

Tim: Sarah, thank you very much for joining us here today. We really appreciate it.

Sarah: I’m happy to be here. Thank you so much.

Tim: We have at this point, perhaps as many as 40,000,000 people, nearly one out of eight people in this country, facing eviction before the end of the year. One of the main things that’s stopping that from already being a tidal wave is the eviction moratorium recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control which could easily be the last line of defense for a lot of families trying to keep a roof over their head. So first things first, if you would clarify for us just exactly what this moratorium is from the CDC and how it works?

Sarah: The CDC issued a moratorium on September 1st and it went into effect September 4th and it provides really broad protections to renters who are facing eviction. It would help them stay in their home until the end of the year, so it lasts through December 31st and it puts strong penalties against any landlord that moves to evict their tenants from their homes.

Tim: Who exactly is affected by the moratorium? How do they qualify and what kind of impact is this going to have on people who are maybe already in the eviction process?

Sarah: The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to nearly all renters who might be facing difficulties. The only thing that a renter needs to do is to sign a declaration form saying that they are eligible and that they meet certain criteria and to give that to their landlord. They are not required to offer any proof of eligibility. It is incredibly broad and it stops every single step of the eviction process. So even if you’re in the middle of an eviction, with fear that one is coming to you soon. We encourage readers to take a look at the declaration form and if it applies to them to immediately sign it and give it to their landlord right away. That’s really all that renters need to do in order to be protected. The biggest challenge right now is just making sure that renters know that this resource is available to them. And that’s why I appreciate being on your show so that we can reach more renters who might be in need.

Tim: Well, we’re glad that you’re here to help spread the word about this and protect the roof over many peoples heads. You mentioned this form that actually can bring the whole process to a screeching halt and keep people in their homes. Where do people find the form?

Sarah: People can find the forms on our website nlihc.org we have it available in nine languages so far, and if there’s other languages that people need a declaration form in that we don’t currently have, let us know and we’re happy to have one created. But all the form really does it says that you are using your best efforts to find rental assistance to make rental payments and that you are being impacted by either job loss or reduction in wages. That you can’t make your rent on time is a very relatively easy bar for renters to overcome. It’s an incredibly important document, and so I hope folks go on to our website and look for other resources that they can use to not only stop this eviction, but hopefully to get other assistance that they might need.

Tim: We’ve already seen through the course of the pandemic other eviction moratoriums put in place by state and local governments, and we’ve also seen cases where those moratoriums have just been blatantly ignored by landlords, especially some of the large corporate landlords. Do you think this latest moratorium from the CDC is going to have any actual effect?

Sarah: The moratorium can help stop illegal evictions by imposing really strong penalties against any landlord that moves forward with any stage of eviction after a tenant produces the declaration form, but we are really concerned about corporate landlords, especially moving forward with evictions before renters know what their rights are and so we’re in a mad rush right now to try to get information out to as many renters as possible so that they can stay in their homes and can’t be taken advantage of.

Tim: Is there any sort of recourse for families or individuals who may have already been evicted?

Sarah: Any family that’s already been evicted likely can’t make use of the moratorium, unless their landlord evicted them after they provided them with the declaration form. I think the best bet for people who are in that situation are to contact legal aid attorneys or other organizations that can provide some assistance, but also to look to their community for possible emergency rental assistance or even assistance to move people experiencing homelessness into hotels.There’s a big effort underway by FEMA and state and local governments to help ensure that people can practice social distancing and so many states are using hotels and motels to allow people who are experiencing homelessness to stay safe.

Tim: One of the things that we have noticed and it’s been actually fairly obvious going along here, something that was quite similar to the mortgage crisis a number of years ago, minorities are being disproportionately impacted by the eviction crisis that is underway in this country. Why are the rates so disproportionate between minorities and whites?

Sarah: People of color and especially black, Latino and native people are disproportionately likely to be impacted by this eviction crisis. That’s in large part because they were more likely to be low income, more likely to be cost burdened, and more likely to be at risk of homelessness prior to this pandemic and now we’re seeing that the pandemic is also having a disproportionate impact on people of color. So people of color are more likely to experience job loss, more likely to experience severe illness and even death from the pandemic. All of that is combining, along with a long history of discrimination and housing policy in evictions especially, to put people of color and especially black women at the highest risk of eviction going forward.

Tim: So a huge amount of responsibility falls on local governments through all of this because they are the ones that typically conduct the court proceedings. It’s local sheriffs that do evictions. What sort of challenges if you’re aware of any that local governments might be facing as a result of the eviction threat moratorium. Are they even aware fully of how this all works, especially when the moratorium is concerned?

Sarah: Many state and local governments are doing everything that they can to prevent evictions. We’re tracking about 300 state and local rental assistance programs that have been stood up or expanded during the pandemic to help prevent people from facing evictions. The biggest challenge is that the need is just overwhelming the resources that state and local governments have. So of the 300 programs we’re tracking about one-third have already run out of money. That’s why it’s incredibly important for the federal government to provide at least 100 billion dollars in emergency rental assistance in any future covid relief package. We are really disappointed to see that Congress hasn’t done that yet, and every day that they wait puts more people and their homes at risk.

Tim: Are there any factors in here that instead of helping are making things worse for renters?

Sarah: The biggest challenge facing renters right now is that Congress feels such a lack of urgency in addressing their needs. We know how to keep people in their homes. We know the solutions. We know the resources, but Congress is taking its time to negotiate this next package. And as it takes its time, you know people are losing their homes and are at risk and we know that low income people and especially the lowest income people, face enormous barriers to getting back on their feet after an economic downturn. And so what we need is for Congress to prioritize the needs of low income renters and people experiencing homelessness and to do that immediately.

Tim: So someone is looking at potentially facing eviction, realizing that the moratorium is not going to go on forever, what sources of help are available out there? What kind of resources can they take advantage of?

Sarah: Renters who are facing difficulty should immediately sign a declaration form and get it to their landlord so that they can postpone their eviction. But you’re pointing to a really important issue, which is that this moratorium doesn’t provide any emergency rental assistance alongside of it and so that means that if Congress doesn’t provide resources, we’re really just postponing evictions rather than preventing them.

Tim: If we want to find out more about what your organization is doing to help fight the eviction crisis, where do we go?

Sarah: People can reach out to us by going to www.nlihc.org and go into our page on Covid relief.

Tim: Sarah, thank you for what you are doing and what your organization is doing to help avert this eviction crisis and help low income families across the country. Sarah Sadiaan, Vice President of Public Policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Thank you so much for sharing some time with us today and again for being a part of this fight.

Sarah: My pleasure. Thank you.

We are joined now with Veronica Horne, A veteran who is suffering with PTSD and was evicted by Invitation Homes on the same day when the Executive Order came out. In addition, we’ll hear from Elliott Murray, a great friend of Veronica who has helped her through the process and witnessed the entire eviction ordeal.

Tim: When did this all happen? When did this start?

Veronica: It originally began when my mother passed and she was a co-signer on the lease as well.

Elliot: Her and her mother were living in separate places. But in the same apartment complex. Her mother was on chemo three times a week. She wasn’t doing very well. She broke her femur in December. When she broke her femur, the medical practitioners told Veronica she could never live by herself. She needed to live with someone. So in a panic, they had to find a place together.

When Veronica approached Invitation Homes for a place to stay because they had two full apartments worth the furniture, 2800 square feet worth. Veronica applied for the home with them initially and they told her income wasn’t enough. When her mother came in, they recognized she had the income. But they also could clearly see the woman was terminal. Her mother passed in August of ’19. Veronica immediately let them know, knowing she didn’t have the income to stay, and then everything was a duress, with her being an only child of how to deal with her mother passed, and arrangements and things of that nature. They told her when she called, she spoke with someone in customer service. And by the way, communication was always leaving a message or leaving a voicemail. Sometimes people call you back, sometimes they don’t. She spoke with the lady who said she wasn’t sure then called someone else. She called someone else. They said yes, we do have something in place where you can get out in 30 days if someone passes away who has a lease, you could be liable for the past two rents, some type of little fee, but you can get out. At the time. Veronica was working. Well, November came around the third week of November to take her to court for eviction and so when she went to court they told her you have seven days to get out or you pay the past due. Past due was almost $8000. I helped to pay that. Her thinking her lease was up in February of 2020, not a two year lease. So she’s thinking if she pays, she can move out in February. She was still working by the way. She ended up sending them a check. So that she could stay in, again thinking she was able to move out in February. When she paid January, February came, she said, I don’t, I really don’t have it. February 7th she ended up losing her Job due to the pandemic, she was a consultant for the Department of Education, a third party contractor. You know, Sam said we’re not going after student loans, so that was out. So they communicate with her off and on saying hey, we know everybody’s not working. No worry about it yadda yadda yeah. Well, she took it verbatim. Don’t worry about it. Well when July 31st hit, the first week of August they came after her again. They sent her a letter. The week before a court date, saying we will forgive your past due rent, which is almost $12,000 if you could be out in seven days. She didn’t know any better because she had nowhere to go. She signed it and she signed it without me being there. So she didn’t really understand. I mean, who signs I’ll get out if you have nowhere to go? (laughs). So they played, they used that against her. We went to court. Long story short, they felt like she was cognizant enough to understand everything that was going on. When Invitation Homes clearly knew she did not understand. And why would they lock them into a two year lease? Who does that? I mean, you give ’em a year. If the lady lives and you give ’em another year, but you don’t lock them in a 2 year lease and escalate the rent after the first year knowing that the primary income person is terminally ill. That means she’s on her way down. She died five months, four months after they moved in, so it wasn’t rocket science like they didn’t know.

Veronica: In the beginning, I didn’t know who to reach out to. It wasn’t until it became a dire situation with Invitation Homes that NACA got involved. We were on the call with the group of Invitation Homeowners. When was that, back in…

Elliot: NACA had arranged a call with people who were having challenges with Invitation Homes. They had prepped us via phone calls via conference call and then we were supposed to be part of a call with Invitation Homes board members or some of their leadership. At which time each tenant was supposedly have an opportunity to share their concerns. We got in touch with NACA and had been in communication with Vivian once we realized they were going to evict her this second time around. So I contacted Invitation Homes and I said, look, this is a bad situation. Why don’t you let me give you some money? Which was over half of what they were asking for, and then let her pick up where she’s at, even though she’s not working, I will help her. Let’s see if we can work this out and he said, “Well, I think you all need to be at court”. And so it was as if this was a game and play on words with them. And then the pandemic hit and President Trump came out and said nobody can be evicted, and by then she had already ordered movers and already packed up her 2,800 square foot house. I mean her move cost me $1,100.

That’s how much stuff she had, okay? And it’s not like money is growing on trees around here because she is still unemployed, but it was better to get her out of that situation and do like a lot of people do, and I know that they do, is sit and wait it out.

There’s a lot of people not paying rent and laughing and joking and waiting until December. Because of the emotional trauma that it was doing to her outside of getting over the loss of her mother, I felt and she felt it was best to get her out of there so that she could just start fresh breathing different air, not looking in every room and seeing her mother and having these people who clearly we’re taking advantage of her. So even though it was financially strapping to me and to her, it was most beneficial to get her out of that situation instead of becoming toxic and it had been that way for a while. And they knew that. They knew what they were doing.

Tim: They gave you that letter. You know. Ok we’ll do this, if you’re out in seven days. What was that day like when it came?

Veronica: My goal was to just get out, just so they don’t come. So the Sheriff didn’t come to put my stuff out. Fortunately, that letter was signed that day from the President. So the Sheriff’s Department weren’t going out at that point. But like he said, we’d already got the moving truck, packed the house, everything. It was, it was just time to go. I was emotionally drained.

Elliot: She’s had to endure more stuff. She already had some items in storage. She had to open another storage unit because a 2800 square foot house full of furniture and you know how older people are, they have that old heavy furniture, not that plasterboard pressboard stuff that we buy and so she had to have somewhere to put it.

Veronica: It’s still hard ’cause now I’m still sitting here with a big debt over my head, eviction on my head where I can’t go find some place to live, so I’m still struggling with it.

Tim: So even though you eventually went along with what they wanted and you signed the letter and you moved out, they haven’t given you a break at all?

Veronica: No. None. Absolutely none.

Tim: So they are still trying to collect all that money from you?

Veronica: Yes sir.

Elliot: She was upset. She didn’t know frick from frack. She didn’t know friend from foe. These people came at her every which way humanly possible knowing they were praying on her emotional state.

Tim: Veronica, you had nowhere to go. Where did you go, when it finally came time to leave?

Veronica: Actually, a friend of Elliot’s, who is in Real Estate, located a place out here in Suwanee through a friend of hers. And Luckily, with God’s help we got in, you know, I was able to get this place. I guess I could consider myself as one of the lucky ones, ’cause otherwise I was headed to a hotel.

Tim: What other kind of concerns did you have when you wound up moving out?

Veronica: It’s a feeling inside you that just it won’t go away, it won’t rest. Because. I was taking advantage of. I was under duress when I got the place. The financial part is tremendous. I’m back down to zero now. Most of my family lives in other states, so nobody else was really able to help me at the time, even with the burial of my mother or the cremation of my mother, that was all on me. Everything fell on me. Thank God for Elliot ’cause without Elliot, I don’t know what I would have done. My stuff will probably still be sitting on a truck.

Tim: If there was anything you could say to Invitation Homes right Now. What would it be?

Veronica: Retrain your staff. How about that? Have a little compassion for people out here that’s struggling. It’s not our fault that the pandemic hit when I was calling, trying to reach them. I’ll get different people telling me different things. When I did get somebody on the phone, it was like caos. It really was. It was chaotic. And Elliot will tell you, I’ve made numerous calls to them. And most of the time I didn’t get a response and I wanna tell people out there in this situation that haven’t gone through eviction yet, keep notes. Keep notes, make sure anything they say to you it’s in writing. Keep your records. if you can record the phone calls ’cause they were telling me that they can’t send me what they were telling me in writing with little offers they were making. They never put it in writing. And then when I got to somebody on the phone it was something totally different. People will pray on those that don’t understand, people will privately and publicly humiliate you if you don’t understand. So if you don’t understand and I’m saying this to the women out there, if you don’t understand, have your man or a friend or somebody that’s used to the corporate world, read it over, talk to them about it. Call an advocate, so be careful. Please out there, be careful. Don’t fall like I did.

Tim: Veronica, thank you so much for sharing the time with us. Thank you for your service. My sympathies, my heartfelt sympathies on everything that has happened to you this year. This has been a rough year for everybody and certainly rougher on you. And hopefully we can put this to good use and help stop this from happening to other people.

Veronica: Yes, thank you for having me and Elliot.

Thank you for listening. Remember, NACA provides the best mortgage in America. NACA has given the opportunity to thousands to qualify for a mortgage with No Down payment, No Closing Costs, No PMI, with no consideration of your credit score and the below market fixed interest rate. For more information, join us at our virtual Achieve the Dream Events at NACA.com

The American Dream Podcast is a production of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. We’ll see you in our next edition of NACA’s American Dream Podcast.

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