Talk to any resident that rents or owns a home in the District, and it is increasingly evident that homelessness is a growing fear that dominates every waking hour due to COVID-19. In what many described as a severe housing crisis before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last March, thousands of residents face the very real possibility that they will be homeless before it all ends.
Due to massive job losses and the end of emergency benefits paid by the federal government, rents are not overdue, and mortgages are no longer affordable. It’s a sad reality that the federal government and local officials are trying to head off.
A national moratorium on evictions was recently extended, and local municipalities followed suit. Still, inevitably, the restrictions will be lifted, and it is predicted that as many as 1.65 million people will be at risk of losing their homes.
While their fate is a problem that we all will have to contend with, it is necessary to acknowledge that some, maybe many, take advantage of the crisis at hand. With the resources to fulfill their monthly commitment, they are not doing so, while not understanding that back rent and late fees will be due when the moratorium is lifted. An eviction moratorium does not mean freedom from paying your financial obligations. It only means what’s due now can be paid later. Unless officials grant unrestricted relief, everyone will be expected to pay up or get out. And, who will blame the landlords for making those the hard decisions?
We admonish residents not to wait until it is too late. If you can pay your rent, pay it, and avoid paying it late. But if doing so presents a hardship, and you’ve fallen behind, start now looking for programs set up to help. Millions of dollars in aid are being set aside for COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Programs, and nonprofit organizations are providing rental and utility assistance. Seek help today, if for no other reason than to avoid another sleepless night.