NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - With a moratorium on evictions scheduled to end on Saturday (July 25), the head of an organization made up of thousands of landlords says property owners do not want to put tenants out on the street and said landlords like many tenants are struggling financially amid the pandemic.
Emmanuel Williams is a tenant in the Central City neighborhood in New Orleans. He says he is already facing eviction due to other plans for the building in which he lives.
“I have one foot on the banana peel and the other foot out the door and I’m sliding fast,” Williams said.
He said the COVID-19 health crisis impaired his ability to work adding to his problems.
“My fear is I have nine days before eviction,” Williams said.
He is without a backup plan.
“There’s nowhere to go, there’s no rental assistance, there’s no financial institutions that’s trying to help us. All we know is we have to be gone,” Williams stated.
His housing dilemma arrived sooner than what thousands of renters across the state could face in the coming days. On July 25, a provision of the federal pandemic-related CARES Act that protects a large category of renters will expire.
Austin Badon is Clerk of 1st City Court in New Orleans.
“This Saturday July 25 the federal CARES ACT [provision] expires which gives protection to people who are receiving government-subsidized housing and so, therefore, landlords can start the eviction process 30 days from July 25th,” he said.
Donald Vallee is President of the Landlord Advisory Committee of New Orleans which is also known as the New Orleans Landlords Association.
“No one wants to put a tenant out, we work with our tenants backwards and forward,” said Vallee. “Where are the tenants going to go? Nobody wants to put anybody on the streets.”
Still Vallee says landlords have financial obligations, too. Some he said still owe money on loans used to buy rental property.
“Everybody has a mortgage for all practical purposes somewhere down the road and for the most part,” said Vallee. “Tenants, they’re out of work, they don’t have money to pay their rent, landlords don’t have the money to pay their mortgages.”
He said flexibility some lenders have shown will not last forever.
“But some point in time if they don’t pay their mortgage, they’re going to lose their property,” said Vallee.
Andreanecia Morris is executive director of HousingNOLA which focuses on housing issues in New Orleans.
“We need financial assistance, our communities, our renters, our homeowners need access to funding,” said Morris.
She fears a resurgence of homelessness in Louisiana and urges leaders in government to act to prevent it.
“That’s the only thing that can happen given that our leaders at every level have failed to provide the assistance necessary to make sure that people can shelter at home,” said Morris. “There’s still money left in the coronavirus relief fund; it needs to be deployed to create housing assistance programs.”
The $600 weekly stipend the federal government has been providing unemployed Americans because of the pandemic is also expiring at the end of July.
Morris said Congress must act quickly to provide more assistance to not just renters, but also homeowners.
“You know Congress has got to act. There are several bills that have been entered, there are several bills that have been authored that would create rental assistance, that would create assistance for homeowners,” she said.
Badon whose office handles the eviction process said while he is not urging landlords to evict renters who have ignored their financial obligations, he understands the position property owners have been put in as a result of the eviction moratorium.
“I see it from both sides, landlords have bills, too. They have taxes, they have upkeep, they have utilities that they have to pay, they have insurance and they haven’t had the opportunity to receive their rent,” said Badon.
Badon urges tenants who are in a financial bind to communicate with their landlords and not to try to skirt their responsibilities.
“And make sure that you have some type of payment plan to be able to do this and pay your bills because nobody ever told you, you did not have to pay your rent,” he said.
Williams says if his situation does not change by the end of the week his options will be dire.
“If August 1 comes and I have no place and there’s definitely no money coming in there’s one or two places; I’m going to be sitting outside this apartment hoping that they change their mind or I’m going to be under the Claiborne bridge,” said Williams.