Temporarily Banning Evictions Could Stem Spike in Homeless Numbers

Faced with Impact of Coronavirus, Low-Income Workers and Their Households at Greater Risk of Eviction

We already know that eviction strongly correlates with poverty and can often lead to homelessness.

As the novel coronavirus epidemic spreads across the U.S., some cities are either considering or are already actively and temporarily stopping evictions. For households struggling to pay their rent month to month, even one small crisis puts them at risk of homelessness.

During this current outbreak, those same households may be at greater risk of  eviction. Low-income households may be more likely to live paycheck to paycheck and, unfortunately, have little to no savings to rely on as a financial cushion. Workers in the service industry may be especially at risk of losing their jobs or a reduction of wages.

As just one example of the potential impact on low-income workers, in an effort to support social distancing, many cities are issuing curfews that require restaurants to curtail their hours of operation and limit the number of patrons.  Other cities have been even more pro-active and are requiring all restaurants, gyms, and other local businesses that serve the public to serve.

Public health experts agree that social distancing will help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus but, it may also prove have economic impacts that local government can help mitigate through preventing evictions and/or utility shut offs.

The cities of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta are all exploring in different ways what they can do or already taking action to assist low-income renters. Short-term assistance may come in the form of a temporary hold on evictions or water shut offs.

Next City reports that there is a proposal in San Jose to temporarily ban evictions for 30 days. “Tenants are still required to pay rent, and in order to qualify for the moratorium, they will need to ‘document that they cannot pay rent due to a substantial loss of income related to the virus,’ according to the report.

Curbed reports that “Cities push for eviction moratorium as coronavirus spreads.”  In this article, Manhattan Borough president Gale Brewer is quoted as one of the New York City leaders that has called for a statewide halt to evictions. “Evicting people during an outbreak, Brewer wrote in a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “makes no sense, from a public health, economic or humanitarian standpoint.”

If the hourly wages of low-income households drop during a possible future recession or if they lose their jobs, a more permanent change in employment for low-income households may also lead to homelessness. Low-income renters may also struggle to pay monthly rent if they face an unexpected emergency room or hospital bill due to the novel coronavirus.

Prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak, eviction was already a cause of homelessness in New Jersey. NJCounts 2019 asked households experiencing homelessness on the night of January 22, 2019, to share the primary factor that contributed to or caused their homelessness.

Almost 12%, 796 households, of the total number of households counted in New Jersey indicated that eviction or risk of eviction was the cause of their homelessness. Monarch Housing coordinates NJCounts, the annual point in time count of the homeless in New Jersey. NJCounts 2020 took place on January 29, 2020.

The Next City article also reports on the heightened awareness on homelessness due to the novel coronavirus and also how the pandemic could affect the housing market. Last week, we reported on preventing the spread of coronavirus among those experiencing homelessness.