Many South Floridians are already feeling the pinch of COVID-19 related housing issues.
“We haven’t even qualified for rent assistance,“ Mychelle Bentley said.
Bentley says throughout this pandemic, she has struggled to pay rent due to a loss of income.
“April came in and I was only able to pay half my rent. Then May, i just couldn’t pay it. We were so far behind,” Bentley said.
When the state’s current moratorium on evictions and foreclosures is lifted, some housing advocates say a crisis could be next.
“This for me is a state of emergency,” housing advocate Rachel Johnson said.
Johnson worked with the New Florida Majority as a canvasser and as participated in a recent survey of 30,000 people across Florida. The survey found roughly 30 percent of those surveyed mentioned their employment has been affected during the pandemic and this has impacted their capacity to pay rent or their mortgages.
“There is going to be mass evictions and mass of foreclosures because people are not going to be able to pay their rent,” Johnson said.
The CARES Act froze evictions for specific types of housing, such as public housing and federally supported mortgages, but researchers with the Social Policy Institute at Washington University say a recent survey of low and moderate income households show a small percentage of the groups surveyed benefited from this.
“We are already in a housing crisis in the U.S. and we were in one long before, and housing is really central for our people to recover from COVID-19,” Dr. Michal Grinstein-Weiss said.
Some real estate investors are also left out.
“The investor has a mortgage payment, and these mortgage payments are not like Fannie and Freddie Mac payments, these payments are private and they are business loans,” broker Florence Khan said.
Khan with Reaction Realty Group, Inc. says with some tenants not able to pay rent and others choosing not to, local landlords are struggling too.
“We have investors who have all of their life savings into these properties that now cannot collect rent, and they are depending on that to pay their bills,” Khan said.
Despite the current moratorium, between March 1st and June 30th 1,533 eviction cases have been filed according to the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts.
For this same time period, the Broward County Clerk of Courts says 1,646 evictions have been filed.
“Nothing is going to landfall until they decide hey we are not going to extend the moratorium,” Bentley said.
Grinstein-Weiss says government policy may need to go further to support all renters and homeowners for the long run.
“August 1st is approaching and COVID is not going anywhere...we need to provide some short term solutions like additional direct funding, additional stimulus support to both renter and landlord,” he added.
A bill designed to provide emergency rental assistance is making its way through Congress while Miami-Dade County has a rental assistance program in place.
If the current version passes, it would also extend the eviction and foreclosure moratorium put in place by the CARES Act through March 2021.