Experts brace for problems as eviction and foreclosure moratorium ends

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published July 23, 2020

 Experts brace for problems as eviction and foreclosure moratorium ends

Experts brace for problems as eviction and foreclosure moratorium ends

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METRO DETROIT — On April 1, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order was to last until June when it was extended to last until July 15.

Now that the moratorium has been lifted, experts who work with families to prevent evictions and foreclosure are expecting a run of both. Kirsten Elliott, the vice president of the Community Housing Network, said the state is estimating a backlog of 75,000 eviction filings.

“We’re scared,” she said. “Once this pandemic started and they said they were putting up an eviction moratorium and mortgage foreclosure moratorium, we were happy that people wouldn’t be immediately displaced, but we also knew that this was going to cause a big problem and that many people did not have the education or knowledge to know that just because there was an eviction moratorium doesn’t mean you still don’t have to pay your rent.”

Jamie Ebaugh, the clinical director for Southwest Solutions, an organization that helps those struggling financially through counseling and planning, said the situation has gotten so bad because of the number of low-income people laid off or temporarily going without pay due to the pandemic.

“An awful lot of people lost jobs, so depending on if they got unemployment payments or if they were already behind on rent payments, when their evictions got put on hold, they were already in trouble and the moratorium just put that all on hold,” he explained. “With so many people losing their jobs or not bringing home a paycheck, that group of people increased dramatically.”

“Everything happened so quickly, it’s hard to say if more could have been done to prevent this,” added Elliott. “Some more educational resources would have helped. A lot of people were thinking, ‘There’s an eviction moratorium right now — I don’t have to pay my rent,’ even though they were still responsible for their regular payments. They had four months of forbearance where they didn’t have to pay, but they still owed that four months of rent at the end of that period, and who’s going to have four months of rent money if they’ve been unemployed in that time?”

Elliott said that local county governments are working to try and provide options for those facing possible eviction or foreclosure, and that her own organization is attempting to do the same.

“We know that both the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Oakland and Macomb counties through the CARES Act are putting money to do eviction prevention,” she said. “We currently have gotten quite a few dollars through the United Way — because we’re a United Way-partnered agency — that we have used to reach out to landlords to ask them to have anyone who was having trouble with their rent to contact us early on.”

She also recommended looking for organizations specifically aimed at keeping people in their homes.

“If people are struggling with paying their rent right now and need assistance, I strongly recommend that they reach out to the Macomb County Homeless Coalition and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, because they have information and resources about what is happening and what you can do as a family to make sure you don’t lose your home through mortgage foreclosure or eviction. Our organization has housing counseling,” she said.

Ebaugh warned that everyone needs to do their research when looking for options.

“No matter where you are looking at getting help, there are always caveats,” he said. “It might be something like being at less than 50% of the area median income. (The Michigan State Housing Development Authority) website has a list of programs where people can see if they qualify. If an individual or family member is a veteran, there are dollars available through the (Veterans Affairs Office’s) Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, for example.”

He also noted that those living in the city of Detroit have some additional time to prepare.

“The moratorium has not expired in the city of Detroit,” Ebaugh said. “They extended it until Aug. 14, although it expired everywhere else. There are sources of money that people can look into if they are having trouble with their rent. In Detroit, there’s money being diverted through an existing diversion program (with the United Community Housing Coalition).”

Both Elliott and Ebaugh said they are preparing for what might be a tough time for many families.

“Everybody is kind of bracing for a wave of evictions, but we really can’t know how bad it will be until the courts start to process things,” said Ebaugh. “A lot of low-income workers who were living paycheck to paycheck are facing the brunt of this problem.”

“While people were waiting on their unemployment, they might not have been able to pay their rent,” added Elliott. “We’re working with the courts to divert from evictions, because even if people weren’t allowed to get evicted, the paperwork was getting filed and the courts could see that pipeline was beginning to fill up. It’s going to be a crisis and not everyone is going to be able to be helped, and I hope that our governments can mobilize so we don’t have a situation like in 2008 and 2009 where people are losing their homes left and right.”