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VOICE – Did you know? Covid Eviction Crisis

by Jun 25, 2021VOICE

During the housing crisis, Prince William County (PWC) had the highest foreclosure rate in Virginia. Poor families were especially victims of predatory lending. VOICE acted then. The circumstances of the Covid pandemic and ensuing job loss has again raised the potential for more evictions and foreclosures. VOICE was prepared and acted.

Why it’s Important

The pandemic’s closure orders led to a financial disruption to life. Jobs were lost, especially among the poor and people of color – most of who were renting, using subsidies or occupying public housing. Unable to make monthly payments, the financial disruption extended to landlords/real estate industry, and regional governments. Evictions during a pandemic would have created a whole host of follow-on housing, health, and subsistence problems. Relief would come from the state level where the real estate industry, especially holders of large blocks of apartments, is an extremely powerful lobbying force in Richmond. VOICE sprang into action on behalf of the tenants. VOICE became the representation of those facing evictions within the halls of government.

Go Deeper

At the beginning of the COVID outbreak in the spring of 2020, VOICE conducted a listening campaign throughout our region to better understand how the pandemic was affecting our community.  VOICE had conversations with over 2,000 people, mainly parents in Title 1 schools, tenants living in affordable housing buildings, and members/parishioners within St. Francis and VOICE’s other member institutions. The number one issue that emerged was the fear of eviction among low income tenants who suffered disproportionately high unemployment during the pandemic. Their fears were well founded and were soon being realized.

VOICE created political space for a temporary eviction moratorium that impacted approximately 50,000-100,000 mostly low-income renters who were people of color and traditionally disenfranchised. VOICE leaders met key state officials, US Senators officials, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons.

  • Advocated for $50 million initial investment from the state for its rental relief program, with the goal of winning hundreds of millions more over the coming months to address the huge scope of the eviction crisis.
  • Regarding public housing in Alexandria, VOICE tenant and clergy leaders reached an agreement with the public housing authority that there would be no evictions until at least March 2021. We believe it is the only agreement of its kind in the country. The advocacy was the work of VOICE as well as members of the community living in public housing and potentially affected by evictions.
  • VOICE worked with the VA Attorney General to stop illegal evictions. Even during the moratorium, landlords still sendt threatening eviction letters in an attempt to subvert the law. VOICE leaders worked to stop this in individual buildings and at a more national level. The latter was achieved by working with Attorney General Herring who sent a letter condemning the practice to the national association of apartment owners.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 34 percent of adults in Virginia “are living in households not current on rent or mortgage where eviction or foreclosure in the next two months is either very likely or somewhat likely. Some fear a wave of evictions could be coming at the end of the month (June 2021) when key state and federal protections are expected to expire at the same time. Now, advocates say Virginia’s Rent Relief Program will be the last line of defense for many.  VOICE continues to advocate for those without a voice in the halls of government.

If you are interested in helping, contact Terry Danner of the parish VOICE team.

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