Moratorium Holds Back Flood Of Evictions, Housing Advocates Worry

Aug 12, 2021

The federal government earlier this month extended the moratorium on evictions due to the new rise in Covid cases, spurred by the Delta variant. Housing advocates in Western North Carolina are worried about what will happen when the program ends. 

David Bartholomew is the homelessness prevention program director at Pisgah Legal Services. He says in Asheville, where the economy is driven by tourism, those who work hourly jobs in hospitality are facing eviction -- sometimes for the first time in their lives. 

“It’s a very difficult housing market. Rents are very high, wages are not as high as such that you can afford those rents, and so a loss of a few hours of work can really lead you to a situation where it’s not feasible for you to make all of your payments,” Bartholomew said.  “It’s directly related to the pandemic and the reduced number of people going out and the reduced need for work.”

It’s like a levee holding back a flood. From June 9 to July 5, 17 percent of renters in North Carolina are behind on their rent payments, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Pulse survey. 

“There’s been a huge economic loss, and there’s been a long time where a nonpayment of evictions haven’t been able to go forward, and so we’ve seen a reduction in the amount of evictions entered in North Carolina and Western North Carolina,” Bartholomew said. "And so, we would expect that when the moratorium ends, that there’s going to be a substantial increase.”

The CDC first issued a freeze on evictions last September to keep tenants inside their homes to slow the spread of the virus. The moratorium was slated to expire July 31, but it’s now extended to October 3, in areas where Covid transmission rates are high. That includes all of Western North Carolina. 

Bartholomew says he suspects the people who are most at risk or most unaware of the moratorium are those who are undocumented. Pisgah Legal offers rent assistance services to anyone regardless of immigration status. 

Editor’s Note: Pisgah Legal Services is a business sponsor of BPR. More information about the moratorium and how to access rent assistance can be found here.