Looming eviction crisis still goes unaddressed by leaders in New Orleans and Louisiana

Andreanecia Morris Executive Director, HousingNOLA

The CARES Act Eviction Moratorium expired on Friday, July 24th and this means that landlords with HUD and federally funded mortgages can begin evicting people from their properties. This is the second blow to vulnerable renters, as the Governor’s moratorium on evictions across the state expired on June 15th.

Housing LOUISIANA and its partners have called on local, state, and federal leaders to #PutHousingFirst by providing immediate rental assistance to the more than 140,000 Louisiana households struggling due to COVID-19-related job-loss and rising eviction numbers. Recent data shows an estimated range of $250-$500 million is needed to keep vulnerable renters in their homes through the end of this year.

In a letters sent to the Governor John Bel Edward and Mayor LaToya Cantrell, advocates have consistently urged them to adhere to the recommendations below because ensuring the financial solvency of renters and rental property owners is not just important for keeping families safely housed, but it is also imperative to Louisiana’s economy and safety.

1). Use remaining Coronavirus Relief Fund and other Community Development Block Grant funds for rental assistance.

2). Use Emergency Shelter Grant, Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) savings and funds dedicated low priority projects to create programs for the homeless, formerly incarcerated and people who were housing insecure before COVID-19.

3) Request the Louisiana Congressional Delegation support a federal appropriation for rental assistance and other housing needs.

In response, a flawed funding program announced by Governor John Bel Edwards ran out in less than 72 hours with no concrete plans to replenish it. The $24 million Rental Assistance Program announced was not enough after the program was launched on Thursday, July 16th and by Sunday July 19th the application process was suspended due to “overwhelming response.” In New Orleans, Mayor Cantrell announced a second Rental Assistance Program would begin on July 26th after the administration spent $4 million to help approximately 1,000 renters in April. And now, with the CARES Act Eviction Moratorium ended, thousands more Louisianans are left vulnerable at this critical point, when the state is seeing some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections. The City of New Orleans alone needs at least $60 million and has more than 8,000 households on a waiting list for rental assistance.

This crisis calls for bold ideas from leaders who aren’t afraid to put those ideas into action. The end to the last protection against eviction gives renters and policy makers 30 days before courts can rule to evict. We need the kind of leadership that turned the Convention Center into a $200M hospital and created a $300M program for small businesses that were left out of the $8 billion in funds other Louisiana businesses received in the PPP Program. Why hasn’t this kind of innovative thinking been done for housing? Where is the housing program from Louisiana leaders that Louisianans need? Especially given the fact that this timeline means that renters could expect be evicted as early as August 24th—just days before we mark the 15th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

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