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Renters feel relief with national eviction moratorium, but announcement comes with criticism

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Posted at 3:47 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 20:10:14-04

The White House says it wants to help hard-working Americans stay in their homes during the pandemic. President Donald Trump has announced a national ban on evictions until Dec. 31.

"Parents still have to face the fact that are they are either going to feed their families, pay the car note, or pay rent. So, I think it's a good thing that he's doing this," said Larry Nelson, a Milwaukee renter.

Nelson lives downtown and works in the restaurant business. He lost his job early on in the pandemic. Governor Tony Evers' 60-day moratorium during the beginning of the national health crisis helped him get through a hard time.

"It was good that the moratorium was in place or I myself would have been kicked out on the streets," Nelson said.

Data shows renters make up more than half of households in Milwaukee county. June proved to be one of the most difficult months for renters in the county.

Court data shows landlords filed 1,474 evictions, which is about a 26 percent increase compared to last June when there were 1,166 evictions.

The latest data show slight improvements. There were 813 evictions in August of 2020 and 1,337 evictions in August of 2019, about a 39 percent drop.

Attorney Colleen Foley with Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee supports the national ban on evictions.

"We welcome it and we're surprised by it," Foley said.

"You still are required to pay your rent if you can or a portion of it and there are income criteria such as your annual income should be under $99,000 or if you are a joint tax filer, it has to be $198,000," she said.

"Another refinement regarding the eviction moratorium and who qualifies: if someone doesn’t fit the income criteria ($99k or under for an individual or $198k or under for joint tax filers), he or she may still qualify if they submit the declaration and attest to receipt of the Federal Cares Act stimulus check in 2020 or if not required to report income to the IRS in 2019," she explained.

"The other half of the equation is funding. So that people can pay their rent and landlords can pay their mortgage," she continued.

The Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program pledged $25 million in federal dollars to Wisconsinites struggling to make their monthly rent.

"There's an incredible need and that money is going to go away in a heartbeat," Foley continued.

The four-month moratorium comes with criticism.

"Renters will face likely insurmountable debt at the end of the moratorium period, meanwhile you are risking failure of the property itself. That's because owners rely on those rental payments to pay employees' salaries, mortgages, taxes," said Paula Cino, Vice President of Construction, Development, and Land Use Policy with the National Multifamily Housing Council.

"Protracted moratoriums are not sustainable and they do nothing to address the renters underlying financial distress," Cino continued.

Cino said there needs to be a federal investment in housing support.

"That's what we still need from Congress, that big comprehensive effort that's going to provide direct housing funds and other support for Americans facing hardships," she said.

Renter Larry Nelson agrees the need is obvious. He's heading back to work soon but knows so many others are still struggling.

"I don't think we can say oh well it's the landlord or it's the renters. I think it's more along the line of the government needs to come up with a solution that will work for everyone," said Nelson.

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