EXPLAINER: High prices, court access challenge Idaho renters
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal freeze on most evictions enacted last year is scheduled to expire July 31, after the Biden administration extended the date by a month. The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was the only tool keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and had fallen months behind on their rent.
Landlords successfully challenged the order in court, arguing they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants could access more than $45 billion in federal money set aside to help pay rents and related expenses.
Advocates for tenants say the distribution of the money has been slow and that more time is needed to distribute it and repay landlords. Without an extension, they feared a spike in evictions and lawsuits seeking to boot out tenants behind on their rents.
As of June 7, roughly 3.2 million people in the U.S. said they face eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks through online responses from a representative sample of U.S. households.
Here’s the situation in Idaho:
WHAT’S THE STATUS OF EVICTION MORATORIUMS IN THE STATE?
The only moratorium in Idaho is the one issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the chances of homeless people spreading the coronavirus. It ends July 31.
WHAT’S BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE FACING EVICTION?
The state received $15 million in CARES Act money last year that was used through Jan. 18 to help people who couldn’t pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic. The state received another $175 million in federal coronavirus relief money to continue the program through Sept. 30, 2022. The Idaho Housing and Finance Association has been distributing the money, except in highly populated Ada County in southwestern Idaho. Officials with the association said the initial $15 million has been spent as well as $6 million of the $175 million. The Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities has been distributing federal relief money it received in the city and county.
HOW ARE THE COURTS HANDLING EVICTION HEARINGS?
Courts shut down for about a month in the spring of 2020 but have been meeting virtually since then. Ali Rabe of the Jesse Tree of Idaho, which works to prevent homelessness in the southwestern part of the state, said that has made it difficult for some people facing eviction who don’t have access to the Internet or are unfamiliar with how to participate online. She said that has resulted in renters having a default judgement against them for failing to appear at a court hearing.
Documentation required of renters to meet requirements of the relief program has been challenging for some eligible renters, causing them to fail to qualify, Rabe said
WHAT IS THE AFFORDABILITY IN THE STATE’S MAJOR RENTAL MARKETS?
Idaho is among the fastest-growing states, and home prices are skyrocketing in urban areas. That is also causing the price of rental homes to shoot up. The National Low Income Housing Coalition said there is a shortage of affordable rental homes available to low-income households in Idaho. It says the annual household income needed to rent a two-bedroom home is $34,500.
ARE EVICTIONS EXPECTED TO CREATE A SURGE IN HOMELESSNESS?
Officials said they expect more people to become homeless once the moratorium ends. “We believe that the moratorium is creating a disincentive for some landlords to file eviction, but not all,” said Rabe, who is also a Democratic state senator. “But we anticipate those landlords will take the opportunity to file when the moratorium lifts.”