The chairman of a House coronavirus subcommittee vows to investigate eviction practices by corporate landlords.
Just days before the federal moratorium on evictions expired, lawmakers looked at the actions of business owners who filed tens of thousands of actions demanding the dismissal of tenants during the pandemic.
Representative James E. Clyburn, chairman of the House subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, said the hearing was the opening salvo of an inquest into what he called “deportation practices unjustified “from some large landowners. Mr Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, said he was troubled by reports that some large real estate owners had decided to evict tenants for non-payment of rent, even as the government struggled to distribute tens of billions of dollars in emergency rent assistance funds.
Last week, Mr Clyburn sent letters to four business owners who he said were particularly aggressive in preying on low-income tenants and black and Latino tenants. “Evictions by business owners have been rampant in minority communities,” he said.
Representatives of these owners did not speak at the hearing, but several housing advocates did.
Jim Baker, executive director of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit that has tracked eviction requests in a handful of large counties, said business owners, rather than so-called mom owners et-pop, accounted for the majority of eviction cases. Business owners had filed at least 75,000 evictions in the half-dozen major counties the group has tracked since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in September, Baker said. .
The moratorium is credited with halving the number of eviction actions filed by homeowners, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab.
But the effects have been mixed: State and local courts have been divided over the details of the moratorium, with some ruling that landlords can sue for eviction for non-payment of rent and that they are prohibited only from returning those. tenants. Other courts have allowed evictions for violations of the rules and regulations of a building complex.
With the moratorium expiring this week, housing advocates estimate that around 11 million adult tenants are at risk of eviction for falling behind on their rent. Nearly half a million people are late in New York City alone, according to an analysis of census data by the National Equity Atlas, a research group associated with the University of Southern California.
Housing advocates fear there will be a rush of eviction cases once the moratorium is over. Some are concerned about the slowness with which the federal government has disbursed about $ 45 billion in federal rent assistance. Just over $ 1.5 billion was paid nationwide, the Treasury Department said last week.
Emily A. Benfer, a professor at Wake Forest University specializing in health and housing law, said in an interview that relief has been slow to come in part because many local communities have had to create rent assistance programs from scratch. The application process can be cumbersome due to language and technology barriers, she added.
Diane Yentel, chair of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told the subcommittee that Congress should consider extending the moratorium to allow more time for the emergency rental money to be disbursed. She said some states allocated less than 5% of the money they received from the federal government.
Republicans on the subcommittee criticized the CDC’s moratorium, calling it an unconstitutional takeover that imposed financial hardship on homeowners. Joel Griffith, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative political group, said the moratorium “erodes private property rights” and interferes with the ability of local courts to enforce local housing laws.
The committee asked business owners to respond to Mr. Clyburn’s letter by August 3.
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