With the insecurity of working in COVID-19, community leaders identified that housing insecurity and ultimately homelessness could drastically increase if left unaddressed. Consequently, many governments stated eviction bans to insulate individuals from the increased risk of homelessness. However, as we slowly enter a post-COVID context, eviction bans are beginning to wane, and the risk of housing insecurity and homelessness are on the rise.
The consequences of COVID-19 to individuals’ financial well-being created the perfect storm for a homelessness disaster. Individuals were facing financial hardships for a multitude of reasons and were becoming increasingly more susceptible to not making rent from month to month.
Rising levels of homelessness increased the risk of COVID-19 transmission given that the people who were displaced would likely require shelter, which was difficult given that homeless shelters became large vehicles of COVID-19 transmission with its congregate setting. How to address this? Keep people isolated in their homes.
Bans of evictions allowed individuals to remain within their residency, lowering the number of people seeking shelter in congregate housing; individuals on the fence of homelessness were resting assured that their residence was not at risk. The CDC placed an order that outlined that individuals could not be evicted due to non-payment from September 4, 2020, through July 31, 2021. Additional stipulations were attached, but by and large, people were protected from being evicted on account of the uncertain trajectory of the pandemic.
However, apartment complexes and housing officials were frustrated with the government’s choice to place this eviction moratorium. As time went on and COVID-19 dissipated from its horrific beginnings, landlords and the like became more and more resistant to the imposition of the eviction moratoriums. In legal action against the government, landlords cited how the eviction bans adversely impacted them, considering they could not collect rent and access their property.
Growing pressure and decreased levels of transmission have contributed to what the CDC labels as its last eviction moratorium extension. So, as of July 31 fast approaches, we are left to answer, what happens to those still facing obstructions to paying their rent?
While there is state-by-state variation, the cessation of the federal eviction moratorium poses credible threats to populations vulnerable to housing insecurity and homelessness. Individuals will no longer experience protection from eviction, leading to what some call a massive eviction crisis. The slowing of COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations, while exciting, pose some more challenging consequences.
Emerging with a longed for a sense of control over the virus, the United States is diminishing its support like the eviction moratorium and the unemployment support. We are leaving people without a means of protection; just because the virus has dissipated does not mean the long-term implications it has on people’s financial well-being has too. It is our role to understand that people at risk for homelessness are not in the clear; perhaps, without the protection, they had for the duration of the pandemic, they are worse off.