Pandemic shutdown poses eviction risks

With unemployment still high due to COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide temporary eviction moratorium on Sept. 1 until Dec. 31. The moratorium is a ban on evictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by keeping people housed during the pandemic. The moratorium has only delayed an already started eviction crisis and added negative consequences for property owners caused by the government's response to the pandemic.

In early April, as the pandemic started, unemployment rates reached as high as 14%, leaving 22.8 million lost jobs within March and April. By the start of August, over half of the jobs lost haven't been recovered.

According to the U.S. Census, 30 to 40 million people were at risk of being evicted within the following months, higher than the population of Texas. Although the eviction moratorium has placed a blockade on the process of evictions, it doesn't wipe out the unpaid rent that will come due.

Dallas resident Thomas Barcenas is seeing the moratorium effects.

"Due to COVID-19 the immigration process has slowed tremendously leaving my mother stuck in a foreign country," said, Barcenas. "Which has caused my stepfather to get behind on his rent, but thanks to the eviction moratorium he has some time to catch up on his financials hopefully."

Barcenas, 23, is living alone with his stepfather after his mother started her citizenship process in 2018. Every month Barcenas and his stepfather send money to her in Mexico for the essentials until she's able to see her family again. She's not able to return until the pandemic ends and the citizenship opens up again.

By the end of the moratorium, renters will have to pay back the months of rent they've missed which only delays what will end up as an eviction to many.

Six months into the pandemic, 55 million Americans have filed for unemployment. A single check of $1,200 was sent out as relief in April as the U.S. government's national response to a loss of income in many households.

"I believe the stimulus money should have come with protection for people in danger of losing their homes," said El Paso resident Seth Flores. "Landlords at the time stimulus checks were sent out harassed their clients for rent money which could have been avoidable," he said.

Texas, California and other states have created a relief fund for taxpayers in need. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sept. 25 that the state will use $171 million in COVID-19 funds to keep residents from being evicted. Other states such as California are extending the moratorium by up to three months.

The consequences at the end of the moratorium also affect property owners. While the moratorium continues, property taxes and mortgages are still due. Property owners that aren't able to take the financial loss from renters not making rent to pay for their property tax and mortgage.

"My parents depend on our rent to be able to make payments," said Dallas resident Sam Favela. "I believe more information and aid should have been made available to the landlords and tenants to prevent the extent of chaos."

With no plan in place for property owners that need the aid, some might be pushed to bankruptcy or foreclosure risking, the nationwide housing finance system. After contacting 24 different apartment complexes in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, no property owners wanted to comment on the eviction moratorium.

"What is needed now is a solution to what happens post-New Years," said Barcenas. "There just needs to be a good system in place to verify and make sure the funds are going to the right people."