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Bipartisan Group Calls For Rental Aid To Avert January Eviction Crisis


A bipartisan group of housing experts and policymakers says extending state or federal eviction moratoriums won't be enough to avert a national crisis in the new year. On Tuesday, the group called for state and federal financial aid.

Researchers estimate at least 7 million households nationwide are at risk of eviction after Jan. 1. That's when a federal moratorium on evictions ends and extended unemployment benefits expire.

In North Carolina, as many as 300,000 evictions are possible, said Rick Glazier, executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center.

"Those kind of numbers, which is why we're having this discussion today, would overwhelm the courts and social service agencies in the state," Glazier said. "We need time to work out arrangements to resolve nonpayment of rent situations. But we also need the resources to help resolve those situations. One without the other does not get us very far."

Glazier spoke at the first meeting of the Duke Eviction Prevention Working Group, organized by Duke Law School and the North Carolina Leadership Forum.

By resources he means financial assistance to cover months of unpaid rent during the coronavirus pandemic. A national survey of landlords found that more than 35% did not get all the rent they were owed this fall.

Jesse McCoy, a lawyer and lecturer at Duke, backed the idea of providing support for landlords. He said state and federal moratoriums have kept them from being able to collect rent or evict bad tenants.

"Small local landlords have essentially had their properties commandeered by tacit order of the government, and have essentially been forced to provide free housing, in some cases dating all the way back to March," McCoy said.

Steve Powel of the real estate technology and services company SitusAMC thinks the answer lies in an aid program for housing providers similar to the federal Paycheck Protection Program, distributed through banks.

"That way we keep the whole economy kind of moving. We keep people in houses. We keep the businesses and the employees that support the apartments working," Powel said.

Other speakers said they hope any assistance can be paid directly to landlords

One starting point for federal aid could be bipartisan stimulus legislation introduced this week in Congress that includes $25 billion for rental assistance. Several speakers at Tuesday's Duke Eviction Working Group meeting urged support for the legislation, which also would extend the federal eviction ban until Jan. 31.

But that bill includes billions of dollars in other kinds of aid and several contentious provisions. It's not clear if it will find enough support to pass.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.