Moratorium extension doesn’t mean the end of evictions in Charlotte

Moratorium extension doesn’t mean the end of evictions in Charlotte

Housing advocates gathered outside the government center in December. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

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Thousands of renters in Charlotte slept last night without fear of being evicted this morning, after the CDC’s last-minute extension of a federal moratorium from March 31 to June 30.

  • Evictions are still occurring, though, and some say at a record pace.

What’s happening: Legal Aid of North Carolina tells me 1,500 Mecklenburg County residents came to them for assistance in 2020 — more than any year in the organization’s history — even with the ongoing moratoriums.

“I think we’ve opened 40 cases this week so far,” Legal Aid’s housing practice group manager Isaac Sturgill told me on Tuesday.

Between the lines: To qualify for the federal relief, distressed renters must to testify in writing that the inability to pay rent is due to a COVID-related loss of income or hours, among other things. Some people aren’t taking that step.

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Even if they do, some landlords — many of them struggling to pay bills themselves due to the loss of rental income — then find other ways evict. A broken washing machine or something, Sturgill says.

By the numbers: The most recent housing pulse survey from the Census Bureau shows that 149,500 people in North Carolina are not caught up on rent, and that 190,000 don’t believe they’ll be able to make their next rent payment. Others are behind by months.

Liana Humphrey of Crisis Assistance Ministry tells me that before COVID, the organization spent an average of about $400 to help folks solve their housing issues. That’s doubled during COVID.

“Moratoriums stop things,” she says. “They don’t solve things.”

Yes, but: This latest extension could be the most meaningful of all. Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are set to receive about $365 million from the American Rescue Plan soon.

The county and city managers have started to work out a plan for it, and it will likely mean millions for housing and rental assistance.

Resources: If you need immediate assistance, go to Crisis Assistance Ministry or Legal Aid NC. If you anticipate needing assistance as a renter or a landlord, go to Ramp CLT to apply for COVID-19 relief money.

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