The Eviction Moratorium declared by the CDC is set to expire July 31, 2021. Despite the downward trend of recent COVID cases, many tenants across North Carolina are currently facing the lingering negative economic impacts caused by COVID-19 including: high-risk working conditions, stagnating wages, increased costs of living, unsafe housing conditions, and increasing barriers to healthcare. While overall COVID cases are trending down, the Delta variant of COVID has made its way to the US and poses new and unknown threats. Meanwhile, landlords continue to explore ways to circumvent the Eviction Moratorium and prioritize their own profits over the health and safety of their tenants and the overall well-being of the community. For these reasons, we are calling for an extension of the Eviction Moratorium until Herd Immunity (70% of individuals fully vaccinated) is reached, in addition to increased consequences for landlords who fail to honor the Moratorium and continue to evict tenants in violation of the law. To increase grassroots pressure on policy makers, we ask that you sign on to our Letter Campaign demanding the extension of the Eviction Moratorium until Herd Immunity (70% fully vaccinated) is reached in North Carolina, and for the prosecution of landlords who have acted in violation of the Eviction Moratorium.
I am sending this message in solidarity with the undersigned organizations to demand an extension of the Eviction Moratorium in North Carolina. With the national Eviction Moratorium set to expire on July 31, 2021, at least a quarter million of North Carolina households are expected to lose their homes beginning August 1, 2021 (See Table 1b of Housing Tables for Week 31 Household Survey under the U.S. Census Bureau). We demand the Eviction Moratorium be extended until Herd Immunity (70% of individuals fully vaccinated) is reached in North Carolina and until all existing rental assistance funds available under the American Rescue Plan have been exhausted.
The massive amount of evictions expected to happen when the Eviction Moratorium expires will undoubtedly bring harm to the health of individuals, families, communities, and the entire state. The UK currently has 47.2% of its population fully vaccinated, and the UK is currently experiencing a resurgence of the pandemic due to COVID variants. By comparison, only 39% of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated. Allowing evictions to resume would pose a major public health threat. This would also likely result in increased mental health incidents, emergency room cases, unemployment, student dropouts, and lost wages (article here). Because there is currently no plan to cancel back rent, tenants who are evicted would likely become homeless because the large debt burden they would carry would prevent them from being able to rent elsewhere. With the COVID Delta variant posing new and unknown risks to vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike, kicking people out of their homes will lead directly to preventable deaths. This also makes the eviction crisis a clear public health crisis.
Further, housing is a racial justice issue. The effects of redlining can be seen in cities across North Carolina to this day. After the devastation of the 2008 financial crisis and the massive decrease in Black home ownership, 58% of Black households rent compared to 27% of white households. Black women are already twice as likely to be evicted from their homes as white renters. Letting the eviction moratorium expire will make these disparities worse. Further, we know that there are some disparities in the State regarding who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t been vaccinated. North Carolina has worked hard to close the vaccination gap in black and brown communities, but there still exists disparities in communities that have experienced vulnerabilities and injustices. Therefore, the State should require NCORR to create a strategic outreach plan along the same lines of the State’s outreach/ vaccination plans to inform tenants of the important rental and utility assistance. Unfortunately, there are many tenants who don’t understand fully what they must do to obtain this important assistance. This is even more important now that the state eviction moratorium and its tenants protections have expired.
Accordingly, we demand that North Carolina tenants be provided with all the resources they need for rent and utilities assistance. The funding from the CARES Act, American Rescue Plan, and other forms of rent assistance in NC have not been fully utilized to help tenants. As of May 2021, there have been residents who applied for the HOPE program as early as October 2020 and still have not received any money. There is still $3.9 million left in the program, and as of May 18, 2021, the HOPE program has just reopened a second round of applications (article here). Although this second amount of funding seems to be moving more quickly there is still $235 million dollars of funding that has not reached the hands of those who need it in order to maintain their housing or utilities.
We are also demanding that the Attorney General prosecute landlords who violate the Eviction Moratorium to ensure all landlords respect the moratorium or face appropriate repercussions. It should be noted that despite the Eviction Moratorium in place, many landlords are ignoring it as demonstrated by a recent email obtained by WFAE of Charlotte, detailing the exchange between law firm Loebsack & Brownlee PLLC, advising landlords to find other reasons to file evictions (Article here).
“You may want to consider now to be an ideal time to do some ‘housekeeping’ with your tenant list by filing cases for all the non-rent lease violations you’ve always just put up with, and thereby cleaning out some of the bottom-of-the-barrel tenants you don't really want on your rent rolls when the Moratorium ends, anyway!” This is unacceptable and must be addressed immediately.
Many cities and counties across North Carolina have not utilized all possible tools and resources to assist renters. North Carolina officials should take note of the approach used in Philadelphia in which an eviction diversion program required landlords to notify tenants of their rights. We demand that beyond ensuring landlords honor the Eviction Moratorium, they must apply for rental assistance funds before an eviction can take place. If rental assistance is denied they should provide an affidavit confirming so along with the eviction papers.