TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Chandra Dobbs was stunned when the police officer came to her door with a large package of eviction papers. She thought she had more time.
“I didn’t think I was going to be evicted because I asked for money for rent assistance,” Dobbs said a few days later. “But they didn’t want to wait the four to six weeks. So now we are homeless – me, my 16 year old son, my daughter and my grandchild, a toddler.
His confusion is a common theme across America at a time when the federal government has ended tenant protection while handing out billions of dollars in rent assistance. Instead of the expected increase in evictions, many homeowners are waiting, waiting for federal money to arrive.
But while a few jurisdictions prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who requested the money, most do not.
Court records show that the eviction judgment against Dobbs was $ 3,837, which included $ 2,700 in rent plus late fees and court costs. Encore Management LLC, which requested the eviction, did not respond to a request for comment on its version of the case.
Dobbs, who was fired from her job as an exotic dancer during the pandemic, said her family was temporarily staying with friends while working with a nonprofit to find a new home and secure money for bail of rent.
After a slow start, the pace of distribution of the first installment of $ 25 billion in rent assistance of $ 46.5 billion is picking up. Treasury Department officials said the program served 420,000 households in August – up from 340,000 in July – and distributed $ 7.7 billion since January.
Treasury officials said clear signs of progress came from New Jersey, New York and South Carolina, which initially struggled to launch their programs. New Jersey, for example, sent no money in the first quarter, but has now distributed 78% of its first installment money and doubled the number of households served in August compared to July.
Spending in Florida fell from $ 60.9 million in July to $ 141.4 million in August, while South Carolina fell from $ 10.6 million to $ 25.3 million. New York saw a jump from $ 8.5 million to $ 307 million.
“These numbers are still early, uncertain and there are likely additional pains and difficulties that are not reflected in these reports,” said Gene Sperling, who is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the coronavirus rescue program. $ 1.9 trillion from Biden. “But what has come out so far is certainly better than the previous best-case scenario for the month following the moratorium.”
Sperling attributed the rent assistance and increased eviction diversion programs to the main reasons the tidal wave forecasts did not materialize, adding that it was important to continue to accelerate the money. relief for owners. The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday issued a new rule prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants in HUD-subsidized public housing without providing them with 30 days notice and information on federal emergency assistance. at available rent.
Some tenants have benefited from moratoriums on remaining evictions, notably in California which ended last month, New York which runs until the end of the year and Boston which is underway.
Others took advantage of newly created programs, from Washington to Texas to Philadelphia to New Hampshire, which aimed to prevent eviction cases from the courts and keep tenants in their homes. Some court systems have also put in place policies suspending evictions if a tenant has applied for rental assistance while at least three states and 10 cities have approved measures providing tenants with free legal advice in eviction proceedings.
Diane Yentel, CEO of the Low Income Coalition, said the nonprofit had encouraged state and local government leaders to maintain the few local eviction bans remaining after the moratorium ended. from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late August.
Landlord advocacy groups have urged members not to evict tenants who have asked for public funds to pay retroactive rent, but landlords don’t always follow this suggestion. Small landlords, in particular, struggled for months to pay their own mortgages and taxes, with many tenants not paying rent.
“The vast majority of homeowners have worked with their residents for almost two years to keep people in their homes,” said Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, president of the Arizona Multihousing Association.
She has defended homeowners throughout the pandemic, noting that many have been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.
Many landlords were more willing to offer concessions during the pandemic, waiving late fees and sometimes reducing or forgiving rent, according to a synthesis of two recent studies focusing primarily on small landlords conducted by the Terner Center of Housing Innovation from the University of California, Berkeley and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
The findings also highlighted the financial difficulties homeowners faced, with some choosing to sell their properties, a move that could result in a loss of affordable housing stock in some communities.
U.S. Navy veteran Paul Wunder, who was also on Constable Kristen Randall’s schedule the following week for eviction from his Tucson apartment, said all homeowners should wait until they receive the federal money put in. aside for rent assistance so that they can get the rent owed to them.
“If they just wait a month, they’ll have all their money,” Wunder said, cradling his little dog Missy, a shaggy burrow mix, inside her apartment days before it was locked. The 66-year-old was fired at the start of the pandemic and then fired again after getting another job as an air conditioning technician.
“If they throw us out on the street,” he said, “they won’t get anything.
Michael Casey contributed to this report from Boston.
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