Jacobin - June 26, 2021

Many of the most stubborn landlords are those who rent to parents with children, particularly black parents. Children spending more time at home during the pandemic has increased landlord-tenant tensions, consistent with the longtime evidence that the presence of children increases the likelihood of an eviction. Multiple national studies show that black women with children are particularly at risk of being evicted, so it is not surprising that recent Indiana data show that black and Latino households are at the greatest risk of post-moratorium evictions.

The Thursday afternoon session of the Warren Township Small Claims Court on the east side of Indianapolis begins with a clerk reading out loud the terms of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moratorium on evictions. This applies to renters at risk of becoming homeless because they lost substantial income due to reduced work hours or medical issues who have been trying to obtain rental assistance while paying what they can to their landlords, the clerk announces. Tenants who qualify can submit a declaration to their landlord that should keep them in their homes for the time being.

Judge Garland Graves takes the bench, and the hearings begin. One of the tenants who is facing eviction this afternoon, a young mother, tells Judge Graves that she had not understood the moratorium before the clerk read it aloud. It turns out she had COVID, lost her job, and is awaiting a decision on her application for help with her rent. The judge instructs her on how to file a declaration that may postpone her eviction.

But her reprieve may not be for long. The CDC moratorium is set to expire on July 31, and Indiana, like most states, has no current local or state moratoriums that would protect tenants. This young mother in Indianapolis, like many across the nation, sits on the verge of an eviction crisis.

Most likely, her case will get added to the three-hundred-plus stack of evictions in this court, all set for hearings soon after the moratorium expires. Graves estimates more than a thousand eviction cases are pending in other courts in the Indianapolis area.

“I think both landlords and tenants see the end of the road for the CDC moratorium coming,” he says. “The rent some of these tenants owe is more than they can catch up on, and some landlords are refusing to accept government rental assistance. So we have a huge number of evictions set to happen once the moratorium ends.”

Neighborhoods and housing courts across the country face the same looming surge of families being thrown out of their homes. Up to now, the wave of evictions has been largely held at bay by the federal response to COVID-triggered economic struggles. Between the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, many laid-off workers have received extra unemployment payments, which were expanded to cover gig workers and others who historically did not qualify. More than $40 billion has been earmarked to rental assistance — even though much of that money has been very slow to reach renters — while various eviction stays have been issued, including the national CDC moratorium. ...
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