Jul 15

A tsunami, an avalanche, a flood, a pandemic, and now a cliff of evictions.

No wonder no one tries to fix the root causes… some see it as a natural disaster, rather than something that with diligence can be fixed in a manner that is good for both tenants and housing.

When Desmond started, he had a great goal – universal housing vouchers, similar to food stamps, for people in need. But along the way, Matt was abducted by the Eviction Defense gang, a zero-sum game where individual tenants have small wins at the expense of the greater good for all tenants and housing.

Rather than eviction “defense,” which harms other tenants and housing by passing the cost burden to both, the better solution is eviction “prevention.” Even the recipients of the eviction defense come out of it with damaged rental histories. Excluding the attorneys, there are no long-term winners, only multiple losers.

Often eviction defense results in a tenant being able to stay for an extra month without paying rent. I wonder if there would be similar or better results if the money spent on eviction defense attorneys is used to pay a month or two of rent.

How many tenants have multiple evictions, or move without fulfilling their rental agreement every few years? Some get parents and friends to “front” for them as they cannot obtain housing independently from property owners. Others seek out small owners who do not know how to screen or go to owners who don’t care as long as they have a fist full of move-in money.

Prevention needs to occur before the rent is missed.

People at the bottom rung of the income scale will always have problems paying rent unless there is something like rent vouchers to help. What other societal costs could be reduced if the constant moving were to be reduced? I think there is a significant safety factor in knowing your neighbors, making it more likely you watch out for one another. What is the impact on schools as kids move, not just due to housing, but also utility disconnects? And so much more.

As I have said to Desmond in the past, I fully support his universal housing vouchers and am willing to work hard to promote it.

The numbers of people at risk of going over this “evictions cliff” are staggering: Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that between 43 and 45 percent of adults live in renter households affected by recent job or income losses, and nearly half of all renter households were struggling to make ends meet even before the virus hit. A UCLA analysis projects that in Los Angeles County alone, about 120,000 households—including 184,000 children—are likely to experience homelesseness, and Black, Latinx, and poor families will suffer the most.

Having a lawyer in housing court can give tenants facing eviction a fighting chance: A March 2012 Boston study, for example, found that about two-thirds of people in the group with full-service representation were able to keep their homes, compared to one-third in the group that received more limited legal help. In Seattle, the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project found that tenants with counsel are more than three times as likely to avoid a forced eviction executed by the local sheriff’s office and reach an out-of-court agreement with their landlord. When the agreement includes a payment plan for catching up on rent, tenants remain housed nearly two-thirds of the time.

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