COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Central Ohio housing advocates are praising the CDC’s decision to extend a moratorium on evictions.
The protection was set to expire after March 31. Tuesday, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cited COVID-19 health concerns for extending the deadline through the end of June.
“You do not want anyone ever to experience homelessness,” said Michelle Heritage, the executive director of the Community Shelter Board. “But certainly during the middle of a pandemic, when being in a congregate setting around other people — like a homeless shelter — it is particularly dangerous.”
A recent survey from the Census Bureau found 20 percent of American adults struggled to pay their previous month’s rent. Close to one-third of African American respondents said they couldn’t afford the rent payment.
Heritage and others said statistics in Central Ohio are similar to the national numbers.
“Sometimes we think, ‘Well that’s in other big cities. That’s in Los Angeles, that’s in New York.’ No, that’s right here in Columbus,” she said.
She explained many of the people at risk for eviction are individuals already living at or near the poverty line. Many were working low wage jobs and lost hours or employment altogether during the pandemic.
“The most common reason someone gets evicted is because they can’t pay rent. The most common reason you can’t pay the rent is because you’re not making enough money,” Heritage said.
Despite the financial hardships, the Community Shelter Board has seen some of its lowest numbers in recent years at family shelters. Heritage attributes the declining demand for emergency shelter to the eviction moratorium and rental assistance from federal stimulus packages.
To be eligible for protection, renters must earn $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers; demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent; declare that they can’t pay because of COVID-19 hardships, and affirm they are likely to become homeless if evicted.
Heritage and others say the eviction moratorium will buy time for renters in the short-term. In the long-term, many are calling for more affordable housing options.
“It’s a basic need. And when our basic needs aren’t met, we’re absolutely going to have health consequences,” Heritage said.
Both Franklin County and the City of Columbus are offering rental assistance and other resources for those facing potential eviction:
- IMPACT Community Action: https://www.impactca.org/get-assistance.html
- Legal Aid Society of Columbus: https://www.columbuslegalaid.org/get-help/housing/
- COHHIO: https://cohhio.org/local-emergency-rental-assistance/
- Franklin County Municipal Court: https://www.fcmcselfhelpcenter.org/eviction-resources/