The jobs and wages lost in the COVID recession have put millions of people behind on their rent, even those who have been able to find jobs again. And now it’s becoming clear that government promises to suspend evictions until the end of the year aren’t stopping landlords from throwing people out in the street.
September 4th was the day a federal government moratorium suspending evictions was supposed to take effect. In the next 43 days, researchers counted 20,523 evictions in 22 cities where courts let landlords exploit loopholes in the moratorium law. And even where the courts don’t permit evictions right now, the judges are signing eviction orders which will take effect right after the New Year.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is one of the landlords going to court to get eviction orders effective in January. One of his companies has filed hundreds of eviction orders on working class families living near Baltimore, Maryland. To avoid being evicted, tenants will not only have to come up with all the back rent; they also have to pay court costs and late payments, which adds up to a lot.
Evicted families are forced either to double up with friends and relatives or go into a shelter. Crowding more people in homes and shelters increases the chance of getting or spreading COVID. Public health experts predict that in a city of one million people, even a “low” eviction rate of one-quarter of one percent a month would lead to approximately 15,000 new coronavirus cases and 150 deaths.
A moratorium, even one without loopholes, is no solution if it simply postpones evictions. We have to organize and demand the cancellation of rent for the duration of the COVID recession. Landlords like Kushner and the banks can live without a few rent payments, but we can’t live on the street.