How North Carolina Distributes $ 1.3 Billion in Rent Assistance

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RALEIGH – A federal freeze on most evictions passed last year is set to expire on July 31, after the Biden administration extended the date by one month.

The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was the only tool allowing millions of tenants to stay in their homes. Many of them lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and were months behind on their rent.

The owners successfully challenged the order in court, arguing that they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants can access more than $ 45 billion in federal funds set aside to help pay rent and related expenses.

Tenant advocates say the cash flow has been slow and it takes longer to distribute it and reimburse landlords. Without an extension, they feared an upsurge in evictions and lawsuits aimed at evicting tenants behind on their rents.

As of June 7, about 3.2 million people in the United States said they were at risk of deportation over the next two months, according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks using online responses from a representative sample of American households.

Here is the situation in North Carolina:

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF STATE DELETION MORATORIES?

North Carolina is one of many states that last year declared a moratorium ending deportation proceedings. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s directive is due to expire on June 30. Cooper extended other COVID-19 restrictions earlier this month, but has yet to announce whether he will extend the moratorium on evictions.

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE TARGETING EVICTIONS?

North Carolina’s Housing Opportunities and Eviction Prevention (HOPE) program provides rent and utility assistance to low-income tenants in 88 of the state’s smaller counties. Twelve major counties run their own programs.

North Carolina has set aside about $ 1.3 billion to help renters cover their housing and utility costs, of which nearly $ 1 billion goes to the HOPE program and $ 300 million to the 12 largest counties.

The state estimates it has awarded a total of about $ 171 million to 47,462 HOPE-eligible households, but does not have data on households served and the money spent so far in the 12 county programs.

HOW DO THE COURTS HANDLE EXVICTION HEARINGS?

Deportation hearings are expected to be increasingly handled in person as the state reopens more and more. Tenants’ advocates and estate agent groups predict more hearings after the moratorium expires. North Carolinians can still be evicted now for reasons unrelated to non-payment of rent, such as destruction of property.

WHAT IS AFFORDABILITY IN THE MAJOR STATE RENTAL MARKETS?

Demand far exceeds supply in many North Carolina rental markets, due to a shortage of affordable housing. Cathy Robertson, president of the property management division of the North Carolina Association of Realtors and vice president of a Winston-Salem-based property management company overseeing 800 housing units, said she was seeing between eight and 12 applicants for every TE Johnson & Sons property publishes online.

“We have the lowest inventory in history, and it’s a long history of our business,” said Robertson of the company that has served the Winston-Salem area since 1928.

US Census data shows that the median monthly gross residential rent in the state was $ 931 in 2019, up 6% from 2015. Over the same five-year period, rents have increased by 12%. % in urban areas in Wake County and 13% in Mecklenburg County. and 14% in County Durham.

SHOULD EVICTIONS CREATE AN INCREASE IN HOMELESSNESS?

It is difficult to say how much homelessness is likely to increase, although some data points suggest that a substantial increase may soon be on the horizon.

Almost one in ten renters in North Carolina are not convinced that they will be able to pay next month’s rent, according to the most recent Household Pulse Survey from the United States Census Bureau. Survey data shows that 30% of those polled believe it is somewhat or very likely that they will be evicted from their homes by the beginning of August.

Legal Aid of North Carolina, a nonprofit law firm that helps low-income tenants facing eviction, has 12 employees who now take more than 2,000 calls a day, a fourfold increase in volume. typical calls before the pandemic. About 70% of the calls they receive come from tenants seeking housing assistance. The organization expects legal assistance to only increase as the deadline for the moratorium on evictions draws near and more people are brought to court for eviction hearings.

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Follow Anderson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson.

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Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.


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