An emergency moratorium on evictions ended this past weekend. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put it in place last year to keep people safely in their homes during the pandemic. Housing advocates worry the end of the moratorium will cause a spike in eviction cases around Northeast Ohio.
In Akron, some renter protections the city put in place during the moratorium, including pay-to-stay legislation and source of income protections, could help stem eviction rates, said Fair Housing Contact Service Associate Director Lauren Green-Hull.
“Those are things that we hope will be impactful for residents living in the city of Akron,” she said, “but outside of those areas, there’s still concerns around both of those matters for us.”
The best thing someone facing an eviction can do is seek out rental assistance and legal aid, Green-Hull said, but much of the current aid options are strictly limited to people financially impacted by the pandemic.
“We hope that that rental assistance funding is what will be a big factor in lowering the eviction rate during the pandemic,” she said. “But because those are solely pandemic-related dollars, for other folks who may not be able to pay rent for some other reason, there is still not assistance.”
“We’re hopeful that coming out of this pandemic there will be a recognition of the deep need for general rental assistance, and hopefully that will continue,” she said.
In Cleveland, the city and Cuyahoga County worked together with agencies including CHN Housing Partners to deliver rental assistance through a combined platform. That platform has issued roughly $35.1 million to about 9,000 residents since July 2020, according to CHN Executive Director Kevin Nowak.
The agency saw a spike in applications whenever the moratorium neared a possible expiration, Nowak said, and it is expecting a similar trend this month.
“We’re constantly committed to that outreach and trying to make sure that everyone is aware of the availability of that rental assistance,” he said.
Programs like Cleveland’s right to counsel are helping connect residents with aid, but housing advocates remain concerned about an eviction spike in the coming months. There’s a lack of affordable housing in and around Cleveland, Nowak said. The issue existed before the pandemic, he said, and it still needs to be addressed.
“As a community, we really need to think about what investments we need to make to increase the amount of affordable housing that’s available in our community,” he said, “and support for those people who have trouble maintaining those homes.”
The pandemic and moratorium have pushed people to investigate what assistance is available, said Andrew Neuhauser, managing attorney for Community Legal Aid Services based in central Northeast Ohio.
“One of the designs of the moratorium was that it required tenants to be seeking assistance,” he said. “A lot of people who have been proactive in finding assistance have already received those funds and should be in better shape going forward.”
Anyone facing an eviction will need to prepare themselves for the ways courts have shifted to accommodate the demands of the pandemic, Neuhauser said, including possible virtual steps to the process and other changes.