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By: Al TompkinsMay 21, 2021 


There is still a rental reckoning ahead and it may not be far off. CBS News says, “The trickle of evictions across the country could soon become a flood as renters owe $53 billion to landlords.”

CBS News continues:

Up (to) 40 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes, according to the Aspen Institute.

On average, Black renters are twice as likely as White renters to face evictions, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. …

One in seven tenants is behind on rent, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s prohibition against evictions expires at the end of next month. Even before then, the moratorium may have legal headwinds. Federal courts have ruled the CDC overstepped its authority and a group of landlords announced this week that they may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the moratorium nationwide. Some states still forbid evictions during the pandemic.

The Eviction Lab at Princeton University says landlords have filed 342,000 eviction orders since the pandemic began.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, just as an example, 34,000 eviction orders have piled up. CBS News went inside Dallas’ eviction court, where 200 lawyers are working pro bono to represent 7,000 tenants facing eviction.

In Lee County, Florida (Ft. Myers), 34,000 people have filed for federal rent and utility assistance, meaning about one in 10 households there say they need help. In Milwaukee, the agency that is managing the rent assistance says it has been so swamped by applications that there is a backlog.

In California, where only 1% of the federal help has been doled out, there is a big roadblock. The Half Moon Bay Review explains that the terms of the California program say that the federal assistance will pay for 80% of the monthly rent, but that the landlord would have to eat 20% of the rental cost. In other words, the landlord will have to lower rent to keep from foreclosing. But the California program also offers to pay a big chunk of back rent.

U.S. News and World Report used data from National Equity Atlas and reported:

Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Alaska and Georgia have the highest shares of renters with debt, each at 20% or more. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the states with the lowest percentages of households with rent debt are UtahMaineOhioIdaho and Kansas. Only 6% of renters in Utah and Maine are behind on rent, according to the data.

While California isn’t among the five states with the highest shares of households behind on rent, the state does have two metro areas — Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (22%) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana (16%) — with high debt percentages. Hawaii has the highest average rent debt per household, at $5,500, but only 8% of the state’s renters are behind, according to additional data provided by PolicyLink.

Overall, 12 states have rent debt shares under 10%. Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., have percentages of at least 15%. Maryland, where a tenants’ rights bill is awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has 19% of households in rent debt.

Think about that. One in five renters in Maryland, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Alaska and Georgia are behind on their rent. As concerning as the overall numbers are, the figure was even higher late last summer.

You might be asking what happened to all that federal help that was supposed to go to people who were behind on their rent. Good question. CBS found 90% of the federal money is still bottled up in the government pipeline somewhere:

Texas has more than $1 billion in funding for rental assistance. More than 130,000 people have applied for the funds and over 16,000 have been approved. But so far, just over $112 million — less than 10% of the funds — has been dispersed to tenants in need, according to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.