As pandemic eases, Gov. Cooper should end N.C.’s moratorium on evictions

Casey Toth/

As our neighbor Virginia joins 35 other states, allowing the rental housing market to return to normal, it’s time for NC Gov. Cooper to follow suit.

There is no question that the sudden onset of last year’s pandemic caused ripple effects threatening not only the health and well-being of citizens across the world, but also had economic ramifications that reached jobs and industries far and wide. The housing industry was at the center of the pandemic – as safe and affordable housing became essential to the nation’s ability to weather the storm – during lockdowns and as the economy, schools and social activities shifted to remote operations.

As elected leaders, officials, business leaders and others worked together to create viable solutions to keep people safe, working and housed, numerous options emerged to help provide targeted and timely aid, including the massive federal PPP loan program and ultimately a nation-wide moratorium on evictions during the peak of the crisis. North Carolina joined the moratorium on evictions, which is still in place through June 30.

While many of these actions were timely and helped keep the state and many families afloat during uncertain and difficult times, the urgency has since abated as effective vaccines are broadly available and jobs are plentiful with a rebounding economy. In addition, historic economic relief packages from the federal government have helped provide significant funding for rental assistance programs, including a billion dollars in rental support in North Carolina, so that property owners, especially small business landlords, can also join the economic recovery.

But unfortunately, their recovery has not yet begun. In North Carolina, rental housing providers continue to work under some of the most severe operating restrictions in the country. During the pandemic, renters who were economically impacted by COVID have been allowed to completely stop paying their monthly rent.

But owners of rental property have not had the same exemptions. They have had to continue paying mortgages, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, and other business expenses. As a result, many have become financially distressed, some having to sell their properties. In this high demand/low supply real estate market, many of those homes become owner occupied or are purchased by corporate interests, which raise rents to recoup their significant investment. This has put a strain on the state’s already overburdened rental housing market, especially for affordable rental options.

In response to the significantly improving pandemic conditions, the governor has lifted most restrictions on most businesses in the state, including mask mandates. But the restrictions on housing providers continue. It’s time for the housing economy to get back to normal as well.

Some are worried that renters who continue to have problems paying rent will be at risk of losing their housing. Fortunately, the fund providing over a billion dollars of federal money is available to North Carolina renters struggling to pay rent as a result of COVID in the relaunched HOPE program. This program is intended as a safety net which promises to quickly get funds to needy individuals – and has been touted by the governor.

Housing providers have sacrificed greatly during the pandemic even as they provided an essential service to North Carolinians. They deserve to get back to business as usual like almost every other business in the state. The housing providers deserve to feel secure in their income and our communities and economy need them to be healthy as well.

The NC REALTORS® is calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to join his colleagues in almost 40 other states and allow his executive order restricting rental housing to expire on June 30.

Kelly Marks is the president of NC REALTORS®