The Looming Eviction Crisis: A Ticking Time Bomb in Los Angeles and Beyond
Unpaid Rent and the Expiration of Eviction Moratoriums
As the deadline for Los Angeles (LA) renters to repay back rent missed during the first 19 months of the COVID-19 pandemic has come and gone, there’s a growing fear of a significant increase in homelessness. This concern is further compounded by the recent expiration of the county’s eviction moratorium. Thousands of LA tenants who had their rent waived during the pandemic now find themselves in a precarious position, owing substantial amounts.
One such individual is Suzy Rozman, a former teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2021. Having fallen eight months behind on her rent, Rozman now finds herself in debt to the tune of $9,000 in back rent. The financial burden for many LA residents has been worsened by a staggering 75% increase in the average monthly rent in LA since the pandemic’s onset, according to property marketplace Zillow.
Legal Aid Overwhelmed with Calls
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, an organization dedicated to providing legal assistance to those in need, is currently overwhelmed with calls for help, resulting in wait times of up to three hours. Jeffrey Uno, the managing attorney at the foundation’s Eviction Defense Center, has likened the impending financial burden to a “balloon payment” that is causing widespread fear.
Homelessness Concerns Escalate
According to the LA Homeless Services Authority, approximately 75,000 people in LA County currently lack permanent housing. This is equivalent to the population of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The potential increase in homelessness due to the eviction crisis has led to serious concerns from officials, including Mayor Karen Bass.
The Crisis Beyond Los Angeles
However, the eviction crisis isn’t confined to LA. The expiration of eviction protections in Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Minnesota, and Illinois in August could potentially fuel homelessness issues in these states. Therefore, the looming eviction and homelessness crisis isn’t just a local issue but a national concern, largely due to the expiration of eviction moratoriums and the accumulation of back rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Wake-Up Call for Systemic Change
The current situation serves as a wake-up call for a systemic change in the way vulnerable tenants are supported. As the rent debt repayment deadline looms, the focus should be on reshaping our current system to one that proactively supports vulnerable tenants to stay housed, not just in the present moment, but over the long term.
The Mayor’s office and the Los Angeles Housing Department have launched a campaign to inform vulnerable tenants about available resources and protections. Despite these efforts, it’s a tense time for many tenants and their landlords who rely on rental income to pay their own mortgages.
Prevention is the Key
The Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, an independent nonprofit supporting the mayor’s vision on homelessness prevention, has started the ‘We Are LA’ program to help at-risk tenants stay housed. So far, $38 million has been raised from this measure.
“We will only be able to solve our city’s homelessness crisis if we work to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place,” Mayor Bass said in a statement. She reiterated the city’s commitment to preventing a wave of evictions as they continue to confront homelessness.
Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released its annual Homeless Count, which revealed a 10% rise countywide, representing the second-biggest increase in the report’s five-year history. It’s clear that the looming eviction crisis is a ticking time bomb that requires immediate and decisive action.
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