Wave of evictions in jeopardy amid pandemic

Miguel Octavio
Created: December 01, 2020 10:39 PM

(ABC 6 News) - It's the start of the month and rent is due.

But more and more Minnesotans can't pay because of the pandemic. 

"For so many people, they've never been in this kind of situation before," said Dave Dunn, Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority director. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium prevents property owners from forcing tenants out of their homes but that ends Dec. 31. In Minnesota though, there will likely be more time under Gov. Tim Walz's peacetime emergency order. 

But Dunn said the situation could get worse when the state's COVID-19 Housing Assistance program ends this year and Walz's moratorium is lifted. 

"The question that we're all asking ourselves is what do we do at that point?" Dunn said.

A backlog of rent payments is looming and keeping landlords' pockets empty. Dunn said an underlying issue are landlords who own few properties and can't pay the bills. 

"The whole system gets in trouble," Dunn said. "We need Congress to either extend these programs or bring in new programs."

Dunn said lower-income people and of color face the highest risk of eviction. He said one study found nearly half of renters in Olmsted County pay at least 30% of their income on rent.

"With the higher levels of rent here, people are just on the verge of having that disaster," Dunn said.

Organizations like Three Rivers Community Action have been busy helping people since aid became available. 

"There are more requests now than there has been before," said Randi Callahan, family advocacy manager. 

Callahan said landlords are still illegally threatening tenants about evictions. Callahan said it's best to pay any amount possible amid the moratorium and keep open communication with owners. 

"It's really hard that program is ending at the most need," Callahan said. "I can see it being a huge need by the end of the year."

Time is running out before the state runs of out of resources by Dec. 31. 

"The trauma on individuals and children is just tremendous," Dunn said. "If you're out there and struggling, now is the time to ask for help."

The deadline to apply for Minnesota's housing assistance program is Dec. 7. 

In Iowa, no state moratorium exists, putting Iowa renters at risk of eviction when the CDC moratorium expires the end of  the year.


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