Credit: Bill Moore photo

As an economic crisis continues coupling with the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say that moratoriums on evictions are expiring soon which will lead to mass numbers of people who won’t have a place to live.

Black renters are predicted to be hardest hit due to widespread job losses and other economic difficulties due to existing income inequality before the pandemic.

Reports indicate that evictions are now starting to begin and the courts are expecting an explosion of cases. New York State halted all eviction proceedings due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 15. The state is still halting evictions for those who can prove that COVID-19 impacted them economically until late August. Evictions can currently be filed by mail or electronically.

Landlords across the city are reporting that with evictions halted, many tenants have stopped paying rent. In March, the AmNews reported that some elected officials and housing advocates were calling for a 90-day moratorium on rent.

“No one should be displaced or go into debt because they can’t pay their rent or their mortgage. An eviction moratorium is an urgent first step, but we need a suspension of rent and automatic forgiveness of any rent, mortgage, or utility payment owed or accumulated during the length of this crisis,” the organization Housing Justice for All said in a statement. “Landlords must not use this moment to price-gouge or displace any tenant who cannot pay the rent (commercial or residential.) All existing rents should be frozen at their current level, and all tenants should have the right to renew their leases.”

Landlords argued that they too had bills to pay and that most property owners in the city are not large real estate companies but mom-and-pop owners.

“Most of our landlords are lower middle income people who have one or two apartments,” said National Homeowner-Landlord Association Executive Director Philip D’Erasmo. “Having a two-family house doesn’t mean you are a rich landlord. We hope that there is some kind of economic stimulus for landlords.”

However, many tenants are now in danger of being homeless as the city begins to open back up and people go back to work. Advocates say as many 50,000 evictions could be filed.

“Despite stopgap measures like eviction moratoria, many families are behind on their rent and worried they won’t catch up, leaving them at risk of eviction and homelessness,” the Urban Institute said in a recent study. “The financial impact of COVID-19 also puts homeowners of color at risk as they struggle to pay their mortgages. If families fall far enough behind, they risk foreclosure and the loss of accrued equity, which, while devastating for any families, cause particular damage for the wealth and stability of Black and Latino households.”

A study by the Community Service Society reveals that between 2017 and 2019, tenants living in the city’s 27 majority Black zip codes were more than three times as likely to be evicted as tenants living in majority white zip codes. Half of Black tenant households in New York State fell behind on their rent as of late May/early June of this year.