Housing advocates in Connecticut say a doomsday scenario is possible if the state doesn’t extend its moratorium on evictions

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Michael Hamad, Hartford Courant
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Housing advocates in Connecticut say a doomsday scenario is possible if the state doesn’t extend its moratorium on evictions through March 1 and add $100 million to the emergency rental assistance program.

In a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont, more than 100 non-profit organizations, business leaders, legal experts, lenders and builders said tenants could be evicted in record numbers, which would likely increase the spread of COVID-19.

Landlords, many of whom have already deferred much-needed maintenance, could lose their properties, while municipalities might see decreased tax revenues. Ultimately, if banks begin to view multi-family units as risky investments, that sector of the housing market could crater.

“Extending the eviction moratorium is needed to prevent the widespread evictions, with all their adverse consequences, that will take place in its absence,” said Kiley Gosselin, executive director for the Partnership for Strong Communities. “An adequately funded emergency rental assistance program which provides funds directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant is the necessary complement to the eviction moratorium and the only way to avert a rental market and eviction crisis.”

Nearly 10 percent of Connecticut households are at risk of eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, according to a November report by the Washington, D.C.-based National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Innovation for Justice Program.

The report estimates that 66,000–133,000 Connecticut households — close to 10 percent of the total number of households in the state — are at risk without federal intervention, with public costs of eviction-related homelessness falling between $628 million and $1.3 billion.

The evictions would trigger “a wave unsustainable downstream costs” that would “further strain the budgets of public health and social service systems,” the report states.

Max Reiss, spokeman for Gov. Lamont, said the state was “continuing to review both the executive order and the situation when it comes to evictions and whether to extend the moratorium. However, we are also looking to Congress. They currently have a proposal for $35 billion to directly provide relief for renters. In a perfect world, we would like to see those funds come in to provide needed relief both for renters and for landlords.”

Tsunami

Since March 10, when Gov. Lamont declared a state of emergency, there have been more than 2,500 new eviction cases filed in Connecticut and roughly 600 executions, which allow marshals to remove tenants from dwellings.

Erin Kemple, executive director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, said the state has averaged roughly 20,000 evictions a year for the last half-decade. In 2020, however, there have been only about 6,000 evictions filed so far — a lower than usual number due in part to Lamont’s April 10th moratorium, which stated that residential landlords couldn’t evict tenants before July 1 except in cases of serious nuisance.

In June, Lamont announced more than $33 million designed to help homeowners, renters and residential landlords, $10 million for mortgage assistance for homeowners having difficulty making the payments.

Lamont renewed the moratorium at the beginning of September, extending landlords’ powers to remove tenants living in units they wanted to occupy themselves and those who owed rent prior to March 1.

After the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its own moratorium in September, Lamont said Connecticut landlords could initiate eviction proceedings against a tenant but would have to back off upon receiving a CDC declaration.

Starting in September, Kemple said, Connecticut is seeing roughly 100 eviction filings per week. Across the 6,000 cases filed so far in 2020, only 24 tenants have filed a CDC declaration seeking to stop eviction proceedings.

“Everybody keeps saying: well, you know, we’re going to have an eviction crisis, this is going to happen,” said Kemple. “It’s already happening. People are being moved out. It’s very clear that the CDC moratorium is not working. You’re not stopping the spread of COVID if you’re allowing such high numbers of people to be evicted from their units.”

What the state continues to say with regard to the eviction prevention program is that they are hoping to get additional funding from the federal government. “That’s where they believe the possibility of additional funding will come from and will address to help address the problem,” Kemple said. “I don’t know if the eviction moratorium is going to be extended. I know that the governor is pulled in many different directions.”

“One of the things that I think is different now than when the pandemic started is that [Lamont] is listening more to business people who are talking about the the the economic hurt that they’re suffering from shutdowns, and in this case from the moratorium,” Kemple said.

“I think that’s going to weigh particularly heavy on him as he makes this decision. But we cannot expect that the CDC moratorium, even if it does continue, will really make a difference, so if the governor doesn’t step up, I’m not sure that there is going to be a lot of help coming from from the federal government.”