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Nowhere to go: Advocates fear surge in evictions as moratorium expires
Eviction moratorium
People from a coalition of housing justice groups hold signs protesting evictions during a news conference outside the Statehouse, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

With a hold on certain evictions coming to a close Saturday, July 31, Wendy Glasbrenner predicted a lot of people will be kicked out of their homes, "and they’re not going to have anywhere to go.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions for renters, which has been extended multiple times since its inception in September 2020, will end Saturday.

“I just can’t even really think about it past that,” said Glasbrenner, the managing attorney for the Gainesville regional office of the Georgia Legal Services Program,about the pending expiration date. “It’s just huge.”

Glasbrenner and the regional office, serving multiple counties including Hall, said there are dozens of cases in court waiting that will now likely proceed.

“There’s very little to rent out there, and that’s not just Hall County but everywhere,” she said.

The Biden administration announced Thursday, July 29, it will allow the moratorium to expire Saturday, arguing that its hands are tied after the Supreme Court signaled the moratorium would only be extended until the end of the month.

The White House said President Joe Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium due to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Instead, Biden called on “Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay.”

The people covered under this moratorium had to fall under all of these conditions :

• The person must earn less than $99,000 in income as a single tax filer or $198,000 as a joint tax filer

• The person is unable to pay the full rent due to being laid off, loss of income, loss of work hours or "extraordinary" out-of-pocket medical expenses

• The person is making "best efforts" to make timely partial payments and to receive any government assistance for rent or housing

• The person would become homeless if evicted because no other housing options are available

Hall County Chief Magistrate Judge Margaret Gregory said there have been roughly 100 dispossessories, the formal name for eviction proceedings, stalled through the CDC moratorium.

“Even though the moratorium is expiring we have still had some affidavits filed the past week,” Gregory wrote in an email.

Gregory said the first docket for these eviction proceedings is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 4. The judge previously told The Times she planned to have five cases per docket, holding court with one docket in the morning and another in the afternoon.

When the courts open back up on these cases, Ninth District Opportunity housing/program planner Michael Fisher said he believes there will be a “wave of evictions unlike anything that our country probably has seen in modern times.”

Ninth District Opportunity is a nonprofit providing assistance for housing, utilities, transportation and more.

“It’s going to cause such a disruption to our housing, to our economy,” Fisher said. “It’s going to be really a difficult thing to have to ride through, for clients, landlords and social community activists or workers as well.”

Fisher said the moratorium has highlighted the issue surrounding low-income affordable housing.

“Between the moratorium and just the sheer lack of affordable housing in this area, it’s made housing almost an impossibility for our low-income families,” Fisher said.

While well-intended in the short term to help struggling families, the moratorium has ended up doing more harm than good in Fisher’s opinion. 

“I personally would like to see (the moratorium) expire, and I don’t necessarily want to see the courts and the evictions … There’s some people who just don’t need to be staying in houses that they’re not making any effort whatsoever to be a part of,” Fisher said. “They’re not doing their fair share. There’s people that desperately need housing, they’re willing to work, do the hard stuff, and so those are the ones that we want to try to focus on.”

While the moratorium appears to be coming to an end, renters can still find some relief through emergency rental assistance programs.

Hall County received $6.15 million as part of the relief package passed by Congress at the end of last year, part of what was known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

As of Tuesday, July 27, the county has expended a little less than a third — $2,063,689.09 — with $264,723.37 going to administrative and marketing expenses.

Hall County also received $1.9 million in a second allocation of emergency rental assistance funding. None of those funds have been expended.

“The Board of Commissioners recently awarded an administrator for this program, and staff will be working to launch this program in the coming months,” Hall County’s director of financial services Dena Bosten wrote in an email.

The time from submitting an application to getting a check can be as little as two weeks, but county spokeswoman Katie Crumley said it can unfortunately take months in certain cases based on a number of factors.

Glasbrenner said her office has often worked dually to get people rent assistance while helping with the CDC moratorium, though she has seen it take months for checks to get cut.

“The cases we’ve been working on for quite a while are just now starting to either get a check or about to get a check,” she said.

Crumley said factors leading to the delayed payout include the “need for follow-up questions, the time it takes for the applicant and/or landlord to respond” and the time between when the application is processed and when the checks are cut.

Advocates for tenants said the distribution of the money had been slow and that more time was needed to distribute it and repay landlords. 

Even with the delay, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. as of July 5 said they face eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks through online responses from a representative sample of U.S. households.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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