We Can’t Afford to Have a Health Crisis Become a Housing Crisis
Contrary to what many people believe, Georgia has not implemented statewide orders that would prevent evictions during, and immediately following, the Covid19 pandemic. In a report conducted by the Eviction Lab and Columbia Law School comparing states on their Covid19 Housing Policy, Georgia scored a dismal .08/5.00 and may see a surge of evictions during and immediately following the pandemic.
The federal stimulus bill provides a moratorium on evictions/foreclosures from rental and residential properties that are federally subsidized or subject to federally backed mortgages. These protections, while important, do not cover a large portion of Georgia’s 3.6 million tenants. And although the Georgia Supreme Court has directed courts to hear only “essential” cases until May 13th, it has left it up to local jurisdictions to define it.
The lack of a statewide directive addressing evictions and foreclosures leaves Georgians vulnerable and creates confusion
- Landlords in Georgia may still file to evict tenants for nonpayment and non-emergency reasons even if non-payment is due to financial hardship due to the pandemic
- Current orders do not prohibit law enforcement from enforcing an eviction order
- Foreclosures are still permitted in Georgia
- Eviction hearings may still be heard in Georgia if local courts decide that they are essential or if they choose to hold the hearing via video or teleconference
- Eviction case records in Georgia are not sealed and are shared with credit agencies which impacts the tenants ability to find subsequent housing-even if they ultimately come up with the money
- Current orders in Georgia do not give tenants a grace period to repay backrent that accrues during the pandemic
- Landlords in Georgia can and still do charge late fees during the pandemic, added monthly or daily in some cases
- Current orders in Georgia do not prohibit landlords from raising rent when renewing leases during “shelter in place”
- Georgia does not provide legal counsel to tenants who face eviction
- Families living in extended stay motels have virtually no protections at all
Stable housing is critical to our public health and economy
As the recent rise in unemployment claims shows, Covid19 is creating an economic crisis as 1 in 5 workers have had their hours reduced or lost their jobs. Evictions will follow. Once homeless, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs estimates that each new homeless person costs their community $3,000 per month in direct and indirect services.
Foreclosures and evictions have long-lasting and harmful impacts for families in the best of times but in a pandemic threaten not only the families of tenants and homeowners but the public health as well. Uprooted families and their children will move into overcrowded homeless shelters, temporary housing with friends or family, or extended stay motels. As they search for housing, their movement risks spreading the Covid19 virus.
Non-voluntary moves during the pandemic will also put additional pressure on families’ finances, physical and mental health, and their children’s already disrupted schooling. There is much research to claim that stressful life events like eviction or foreclosure weaken the body’s ability to fight off infection making it more likely that displaced families can contract and spread Covid19. At this moment children need stable homes more than ever, with regular access to the internet for assignments, lessons, and communication with their teachers and peers.
Our SVdP caseworkers are working with these families every day by phone and email to try and get them some help to prevent their eviction and stay safe at home like millions of other Georgians. But the need has overwhelmed our ability to help and that of the hundreds of other non-profit agencies working side by side with us.
There is a Solution for Georgia and SVdP Can Help!
Governor Kemp’s Coronavirus Task Force Committee on Homeless and Displaced persons recommended that Georgia “stay evictions and ask landlords to halt evictions.” The Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and Georgia Appleseed has drafted an executive order for Governor Kemp that would:
- Protect tenants and homeowners from eviction during the pandemic
- Protect families living in extended stay motels from being put out for non-payment
- Protect families from fees for late rent payments
- Protect homeowners from foreclosure
This executive order was cosigned by 32 elected officials and endorsed by 141 non-profit and religious organizations.
Let’s add our SVdP voices to this vital issue.
Tell Governor Kemp to enact the executive order stop evictions and keep the health crisis from becoming a housing crisis.