OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – A federal freeze on most evictions passed last year is expected to expire on July 31, after the Biden administration extended the date by one month. The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was the only tool allowing millions of tenants to stay in their homes. Many of them lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and were months behind on their rent.
The owners successfully challenged the order in court, arguing that they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants could access more than $ 45 billion in federal funds set aside to help pay rent and related expenses.
Tenant advocates say the cash flow has been slow and it takes longer to distribute it and reimburse landlords. Without an extension, they feared an upsurge in evictions and lawsuits aimed at chasing tenants behind on their rents.
As of June 7, about 3.2 million people in the United States have said they are at risk of deportation within the next two months, according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks using online responses from a representative sample of American households.
Here is the situation in Washington:
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF STATE DELETION MORATORIES?
Washington is one of many states that last year declared a moratorium ending deportation proceedings. Evictions with 60 days notice are permitted in cases where the landlord intends to sell or move into the property, or if an affidavit states that the tenant has created health and safety concerns.
Governor Jay Inslee has extended the moratorium on several occasions, including last week. The protections will now remain in effect until September 30 to give homeowners and tenants enough time to access federal assistance.
Until the end of July, landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants for overdue rents during the pandemic until rental assistance and eviction resolution programs are in place in their county. As of August 1, tenants are expected to pay full rent, unless they have negotiated a lower amount with their landlord or are actively seeking rent assistance. Landlords should offer tenants a reasonable repayment plan before beginning the eviction process and provide them with a list of the services and supports available to them through assistance programs.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE TARGETING EVICTIONS?
The legislature approved spending $ 658 million in federal funds to expand the state rent assistance program. This does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars from previous federal assistance programs that are distributed to homeowners. The final number of households to be helped is expected to be over 80,000, said Jaime Smith, spokesperson for the State Department of Commerce.
The governor also signed a “right to legal assistance” measure passed by the legislature that ensures low-income tenants have legal representation in the event of an eviction. Another deals with the rights of tenants and the circumstances under which they can be evicted.
HOW DO THE COURTS HANDLE EXVICTION HEARINGS?
In most judicial districts, deportation hearings in Washington continue to be held at bay. In any given year, courts receive 17,000 to 20,000 eviction applications across the state, said Edmund Witter, lawyer with the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project. Although the number has declined during the pandemic, he expects the pace to pick up once the moratorium is lifted.
Recent statewide data shows only 2,700 deportation requests in 2020, said Jim Bamberger, director of the Office of Civil Legal Aid, a judicial agency.
WHAT IS AFFORDABILITY IN THE MAJOR STATE RENTAL MARKETS?
Washington has had a tight rental market for several years, with vacancy rates of 5% or less, said James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, which examines data for rental properties with at least 20 units. From spring 2015 to spring 2021, the statewide average rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased by more than 37% to $ 1,476, according to state data. One-bedroom apartments jumped 30% over the same period to an average of $ 1,422 statewide. This spring, one-bedroom apartments in most counties outside the Puget Sound area had vacancy rates below 2%.
During the pandemic, the state moved away from urban areas as people searched for cheaper housing while working remotely. That’s why King County, home to Seattle, had the highest vacancy rate at 7.1% this spring, compared to smaller markets which had a 0.5% rental vacancy rate in a recent poll.
Data on five and more multi-family units from CoStar Group, a real estate research firm, shows that as the economy reopens, demand for Seattle homes is returning after vacancy rates hit 11.4 % last year and that rents go up again after seeing a drop.
Seattle rents have gone up 4.4% in the past 12 months, with one bedroom at $ 1,674 and a two bedroom rate at $ 1,983.
SHOULD EVICTIONS CREATE AN INCREASE IN HOMELESSNESS?
It’s hard to say how much homelessness will increase in Washington. Witter, with the Housing Justice Project, said the Seattle area already has one of the highest homelessness rates in the country, which could increase if evictions linked to the pandemic skyrocket. According to the Census Pulse Survey for the week of May 26 to June 7, about 13,000 households statewide do not pay rent and more than 40,000 have “no confidence” that they could pay rent for the month. next.
The census survey found that more than 10,000 respondents said it was “very likely” that they would have to leave their homes due to an eviction within the next two months. Over 30,000 people said it was “quite” likely. “It doesn’t take much to create a wave of homelessness,” Witter said.