Future is still uncertain, despite extension of moratorium

Justine Gonzalez-Berg
Posted 7/30/20

Thank goodness the eviction moratorium is extended.

Washington state’s eviction moratorium has been in place since the beginning of the stay-at-home order, and has been extended two times; …

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Future is still uncertain, despite extension of moratorium

Posted

Thank goodness the eviction moratorium is extended.

Washington state’s eviction moratorium has been in place since the beginning of the stay-at-home order, and has been extended two times; the current order is in effect until Oct. 15. The eviction moratorium, simply put, bans landlords from evicting tenants due to the nonpayment of rent if tenants can prove their loss of income is pandemic related. 

The moratorium does not relieve tenants from the rent that is due, however, so there is no incentive to not pay rent if a tenant is able. When the moratorium lifts, landlords must offer a “reasonable repayment plan” for tenants.  

Tenants and landlords alike need to be aware of this moratorium, who it protects, and why it is an essential part of maintaining the health and wellbeing of our communities. We also must internalize its limitations and recognize the need for long-term solutions.

The potential for the current public health and economic crises to be compounded by a homelessness crisis is very real, and would create lasting impacts for individuals and this community. Already local service providers are struggling to safely shelter people who are experiencing homelessness, and there seems to be no clear plan for where these individuals will go this fall and winter if social distancing is needed. The social and economic costs of keeping people housed where they are now is certainly less than the cost of providing services to more unhoused people. Moreover, the cost of human suffering is infinitely greater when people lose housing.

The eviction moratorium is helping keep vulnerable people housed right now, but the future is still uncertain. Since the moratorium continues to be extended for short periods of time, tenants are left in a state of constant insecurity (the city of Seattle helped their tenants by creating a local moratorium through December, which the city of Port Townsend could also do). When the moratorium is lifted, tenants, many of whom already paid more on rent than their pre-pandemic incomes could afford, will additionally have to begin repayment of prior months of rent, which could become a form of insurmountable debt. 

How we will collectively grapple with this reality is up to us, and hopefully we will find a way to distribute the societal burden of this pandemic so that it is not borne unduly by one group of people — especially by those who already have the least security. The issue of rent during the pandemic has created a tenant-vs-landlord mentality that fictionalizes both parties as self-serving monoliths. We must move past this generalized dichotomy and toward a human-centered approach that prioritizes the wellbeing of our community members and community as a whole. From there we can better activate our collective ability to create innovative solutions and foster mutual support. 

Tenants who think they are facing an unlawful eviction can reach out to organizations like Clallam-Jefferson County Pro Bono Lawyers for legal aid, or call the CLEAR hotline at 888-201-1014. Tenants and landlords can learn more about the eviction moratorium through Northwest Justice Project. 

(Justine Gonzalez-Berg is the Network Weaver for Housing Solutions Network and a trustee of Homeward Bound Community Land Trust.) 

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