A wave of evictions and homelessness feared due to the pandemic

Updated: Jun. 26, 2020 at 6:57 PM CDT
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Clear blue sky over downtown New Orleans Sunday, April 26, 2020.
Clear blue sky over downtown New Orleans Sunday, April 26, 2020.(WVUE Weather)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As the coronavirus pandemic persists it is feared that many low-income families in Louisiana and around the country could face eviction soon and as a result homelessness.

The Center for Planning Excellence of Baton Rouge and Urban Footprint released their analysis of the housing crisis amid the pandemic.

Camille Manning-Broome is President of the Center for Planning Excellence.

“In Louisiana, our development patterns are increasing the likelihood of this, of homelessness and high-risk burden because many areas your combined housing and transportation costs had up to more than 50 percent of your income,” Manning-Broome said.

The analysis found that Louisiana ranks 3rd in the nation for having a high risk for evictions due to job losses. Further it says 130,000 households across Louisiana are at risk of evictions and it shows the parishes most in need of rental assistance beyond July 31 when federal protections and assistance expire are in order of need, Orleans, Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, Caddo, Lafayette, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Calcasieu, Ouachita, and Bossier.

Manning-Broome said an extension of federal help is warranted.

“I don’t see any way in which the state is going to have the necessary budget to fill this really big need in short order, “she said.

Joe Distefano is CEO of UrbanFootprint.

“Proportionately, New Orleans has the highest proportion of those who need it most now,” Distefano said.

Long before the COVID crisis the housing-cost burden was on the radar in New Orleans.

Robert Habans, PhD., is an economist with The Data Center in New Orleans which has previously highlighted the issue.

“In the eight-parish metro area our estimate is that 32 percent of renters and 10 percent of homeowners pay more than half of their income on housing and utilities,” said Habans.

And now the hit to tourism has led to more unemployment especially among low wage workers.

“Some of the early analysis at the start of COVID that the people that were most at risk of job loss were more likely to be renters and more likely to be low income,” said Habans.

Market rate evictions are already happening in New Orleans says Clerk of First City Court Austin Badon.

“But if you have like a Section 8 voucher or some type of federal housing voucher or if the landlord has a federally backed mortgage, the federal CARES Act says that you cannot evict those individuals at this time, however, that protection expires on July 25,” said Badon.

And he anticipates an increase in evictions if renters are behind on their rent.

“The landlords have to give a 30-day notice. I’m very worried because now all of these people who are on Section 8 vouchers who were receiving some relief from the federal CARES Act that is going to expire, so that light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming fast for them,” said Badon. “We’re not advocating for evictions. I understand both sides, the landlords are saying there’s nothing to protect them, they’re at risk of losing their property.”

So, there is pressure on the Congress to provide more relief.

“If that Act does not pass, we will see homelessness and there will be a wave of it,” said Manning-Broome. “Within that act there’s a hundred billion focused for emergency rental assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020.”

And affordable housing advocates say having more people become homeless will only place more strain on social services.

“A dollar spent on plugging a hole in a family, a renter’s budget, perhaps prevents many more dollars that have to be spent down the chain on food security, on social services,” said Distefano. “You’re looking at 43 million renters in the United States, 20 million of them who are in one form or another experiencing increased levels of stress and ultimately an eviction risk.”

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