A statewide moratorium on evictions meant to prevent a wave of homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic was recently extended to Oct. 15.
The moratorium, first proclaimed in mid-March, was set to expire Aug. 1. Late last week, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the extension along with new rules for social gatherings that will further delay reopening the economy, which means some tenants still may not be able to pay rent.
During the press conference, Inslee emphasized that tenants who can need to pay rent. The moratorium “is for the folks who are really in tough times,” he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse Survey, 15 percent of adults missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or have little to no confidence that they can pay on time next month.
To help address this, Washington was awarded $100 million in CARES Act funding at the end of June that will soon be put toward rental assistance.
Penny Thomas, spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce, said the agency has been working feverishly to get a rental assistance program designed and implemented.
It’s intended to prevent evictions among people most likely to become homeless or experience severe health consequences as a result of eviction. Additionally, it aims to promote equity, particularly among those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes people who are Latinx or Hispanic, Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander as well as young adults, seniors and those living with underlying health conditions.
Money should reach communities early next week for distribution to housing providers.
Advice for tenants
The Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program originally planned a Thursday webinar on evictions, but with the moratorium being extended the group is redesigning the event.
Jessi Anderson, the organization’s legal director, said the governor recognized people may be desiring an explanation for what constitutes a reasonable rent repayment plan. There’s also an emphasis on respectful communication between landlord and tenant. The Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program has not received many calls about landlords harassing tenants.
Anderson advised renters to not ignore their landlord’s requests to discuss payment plans, which have to be specific to each tenant and their personal financial situation.
The income that one unit was producing is gone, similar to someone’s hours being reduced at work, Braithwait said. For other landlords who own a single duplex or triplex, they may be experiencing a much larger cut in income if a tenant isn’t paying rent.
While larger landlords can afford to weather the pandemic, smaller landlords may be in a different financial situation. It’s not tenable long term, Braithwait said, adding there may come a point where landlords cannot pay their mortgages.
At some point, she plans to sell her 11-unit building, she said, but not until after the pandemic is over.
“I’ll just keep waiting this out,” Braithwait said.
By Sept. 15, the state plans to assemble an informal workgroup with stakeholders and legislators with experience in housing issues, though it’s unclear if there will be representation from Southwest Washington.