Illinois hopes to avoid wave of summer evictions
A federal freeze on most evictions that was enacted last year is expected to expire on July 31, after the Biden administration extended the date by one month. The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, has been the only tool allowing millions of tenants to stay in their homes. Many of them lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and were months behind on their rent.
The owners successfully challenged the order in court, arguing that they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants can access more than $ 45 billion in federal funds set aside to help pay rent and related expenses.
Tenant advocates say the cash flow has been slow and it takes longer to distribute it and reimburse landlords. Without an extension, they feared an upsurge in evictions and lawsuits aimed at evicting late renters.
As of June 7, about 3.2 million people in the United States said they would face eviction within the next two months, according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks using online responses from a representative sample of American households.
Here is the situation in Illinois:
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF STATE DELETION MORATORIES?
The state plans to end its own moratorium on evictions by August, sixteen months after Governor JB Pritzker issued it.
Pritzker extended the order several times. After owners of small properties complained it was hurting them financially, the Democrat changed his ordinance in November to require tenants to certify they met certain conditions.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE TARGETING EVICTIONS?
The state plans to provide $ 1.1 billion in rent relief payments to tenants and landlords, plus $ 400 million that will be available in some cities. Pritzker’s office estimated that the money could help more than 120,000 people.
Individuals can claim up to $ 25,000 which would go directly to homeowners. A separate $ 280 million program focuses on utility costs.
A new state law also seals the records of all evictions between March 2020 and March 2022, in a bid to prevent financial hardship related to the pandemic from deepening a tenant’s ability to secure future housing.
Teri Ross, executive director of Illinois Legal Aid Online, also encouraged people behind in their rent payments to contact community groups who have received money from federal relief programs to offer legal help or services. .
HOW DO THE COURTS HANDLE EXVICTION HEARINGS?
It varies depending on the location of the tenant. Ross said counties in the Chicago metro area do not allow landlords to sue tenants who are behind on their rent.
Elsewhere, counties that have accepted eviction requests generally do not follow through. Deportation orders entered before the start of the pandemic and those based on health and safety concerns have been allowed to be enforced in the state.
But advocates expect court hearings and enforcement of evictions to resume once federal and state moratoria are over.
The Illinois Housing Development Authority provides training on rent relief and other assistance to state judges. Agency director Kristin Faust said the goal was to encourage landlords and tenants to go into mediation rather than moving towards eviction. Housing advocates have said some counties have already taken the approach and hope it will help some tenants stay in their homes while providing financial relief to their landlords.
HOW AFFORDABLE IS HOUSING IN THE MAJOR STATE RENTAL MARKETS?
In May, the median monthly rent for studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments in the Chicago area had fallen 1.9% over the past year to $ 1,650, according to a report released on June 16. by Realtor.com. Median rents for a two-bedroom apartment increased 5.6% to $ 1,900.
Those prices are out of reach for many tenants in the city and surrounding suburbs, said Karla Chrobak, supervising lawyer for CARPLS Legal Aid, an organization that provides free legal aid in Cook County.
Chrobak said clients seeking help from the group were already struggling to find affordable housing before the pandemic, making the prospect of being evicted now “terrifying.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, a Chicago nonprofit that helps low-income tenants, found that evictions in the city declined from 2010 to 2019. But the organization also pointed to an apparent link between the similar drop in the unemployment rate and the trend of evictions.
In a December report, the organization feared that higher unemployment rates during the pandemic could portend an imminent increase in evictions this year.
SHOULD EVICTIONS CREATE AN INCREASE IN HOMELESSNESS?
Ross said community organizations in the state “fear mass evictions.”
“I hope we will see communities working together, landlords and tenants,” she said. “Maintaining the stability of communities depends in large part on keeping people housed in a coherent manner – not precariously. “
One indication of the scale of the problem is recent census data showing that 100,578 Illinois residents feared deportation within the next two months.
Faust, director of the state agency managing rent relief, hopes joint efforts to keep tenants in their homes will help Illinois avoid mass evictions.
“We are going through a shared trauma here and we are going to deal with it together and we are going to resolve it together,” she said.