Winter’s coming. Scotland stops evictions and rent increases. Your government can too!

Winter is coming to the Global North. In the United Kingdom, winter can be brutal. Inflation this week hit 10.1%, the highest since 1982. Rents across the United Kingdom have skyrocketed at never-before-seen rates or levels. Scotland was hit the hardest. Last year, across the United Kingdom, close to a million rental households feared and anticipated eviction: “Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) renters, renters with children, lower-income renters, and renters that have lost income during the pandemic, are disproportionately struggling.”. Where are the women in this tragedy? Black women, Asian women, minority ethnic women. Women with children. Lower-income women. Women who have lost income during the pandemic. Where are the women? Everywhere, disproportionately.  This week, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, responding to the crisis, announced a rent freeze on public and private properties and a ban on winter evictions. In Scotland, 37% of households are rentals. The rent freeze and the ban on evictions will be in place until at least March 31.

According to Nicola Sturgeon, by October, 40% of all Scottish households would be “in fuel poverty”, 37% in “extreme fuel poverty”. As we have seen in the United States and elsewhere, fuel poverty translates to food poverty, housing poverty, education poverty, health poverty. Fuel poverty translates as well into increased domestic and community violence. There are no discrete poverty categories. As Nicola Sturgeon noted, “It is, to be blunt, a humanitarian emergency”.

Scotland cannot address fuel poverty on its own. The United Kingdom, ie Westminster, must do that. Scotland has the same impediments as many jurisdictions around the world. It can do some, but not all, things. But it has decided to do something. In Scotland as elsewhere, a rent freeze is controversial. A ban on evictions is controversial. The government of Scotland decided to welcome the controversy and move forward: “It will aim to give people security about the roof over their heads this winter through a moratorium on evictions. Secondly the legislation will include measures to deliver a rent freeze. The Scottish government does not have the power to stop your energy bills soaring but we can take action to ensure your rent does not rise. The practical effect of this statement is that rents are frozen from today. Two of the most important and fundamental sources of security for any of us are a job and a home. In times of economic and financial crisis. These can be the foundations that helps people through.”

These can be the foundations that help people through. Scotland has acted. Your government can as well.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: BBC)

“Return to normal”: Rising evictions, nowhere to go

Welcome to the so-called `liberal’ DMV, DC – Maryland – Virginia. Yesterday, Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have extended protection from eviction if the tenant has a pending rent relief application. That protection would have been a mere 35 days. The Governor also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have required landlords prove their compliance with local rental laws before trying to evict a tenant. Who needs proof of compliance, when we’re talking landlords? These modest proposals were vetoed by the Governor because “Maryland already has some of the strongest tenant protection laws in the nation”. That’s a low bar, not to mention a lousy reason. On the same day, Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed bipartisan bills that would have assisted indigent public housing residents. The bills would have exempted very low-income tenants from having to pay exorbitant appeal bonds, which can run into the thousands, in order to appeal an eviction notice. The Governor explained that he preferred his vision, which was essentially to gut the entire bill and then claim victory. At least he didn’t claim Virginia already has some of the strongest protection laws in the nation. Both governors have national aspirations.

From Australia to the United Kingdom and beyond, the story is largely the same. Pandemic protections, such as they were, are coming to an end. The housing market, for purchase or rent, is hot and getting hotter. Landlords find, or create, loopholes in the already tattered safety net for renters. For example, across England and Wales, even weak restrictions on “no fault” evictions are blithely ignored. Of course, Parliament promised to and failed, or refused, to ban no fault evictions. This week, the New York legislature failed, or refused, to pass Just Cause eviction protections. Wages have not kept up with housing. Inflation is forcing low to moderate income families to decide among paying the rent or mortgage, putting food on the table, or paying for utilities. The affordable housing stock, already reduced after a decades’ long hiatus in construction, is being reduced. In many parts of the world, the mantra for those facing eviction is “Nowhere to go”.

In New Orleans, eviction filings and evictions are rising rapidly. The explanation is rising rents and decreasing availability of affordable housing. Those are symptoms, not cause. Public policy is the cause. Look at any eviction court in the country. More than 90% of landlords have legal representation, fewer than 10%, often fewer than 5%, of tenants have lawyers. There are no scales of justice in that space. Only imbalance, inequality, injustice.

In Detroit, half the residents say their financial situation is more or less the same as a year ago, 23% say improved, 23% say worse. 35% of low-income residents say they are worse off now than a year ago. 33% of Detroit renters report spending 31-50% of their income on housing. 24% of renters report spending more than half of their monthly income on housing. According to the United State government, anything 30% or higher qualifies as “housing insecure”.

This is a brief overview of news of the last 24 hours. We entered the pandemic `discovering’ the lack of data. Individual organizations and people across the country created and expanded local eviction dashboards. There still is no national data bank. Courts remain spaces of collusion between judges and landlords. And the options offered by so-called leaders, with some exceptions, are either the protections in place are sufficient, when they clearly are not, or the protections in place or offered are excessive, when they are paltry. For too many, “return to normal” means nowhere to go.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Max Becherer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Women Fighting Against Miami’s Housing Crisis

Women of color have always been at the forefront of advocacy, resistance, and social change. On Tuesday, May 3, 2022, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners approved the Miami Tenants Bill of Rights. Behind its creation and passage was the Miami Workers Center, which “organiz[es] towards dignity, power, and self-determination with workers, tenants, and families in Miami, FL,” many of whom are low-wage earning women of color working in the service industry and as care workers. Miami women have been mobilizing and protesting against Miami’s housing crisis, and many spoke before the commission detailing their living conditions and abusive experiences with landlords. At the Miami-Dade County Hall, Mercedes Cabrera, a 38-year-old mother living in private housing subsidized by a federal Section 8 housing voucher, presented to the Miami-Dade County Commission photos of flooded floors and damaged walls, and pleaded for protection against a landlord attempting to evict her because she reported the poor conditions of her housing to authorities. Cabrera asserted to the County Commission, “We have no rights at all. It’s all biased in favor of landlords.” Miami’s housing crisis is not only an economic issue, it is a public health and human security issue.

The Tenants Bill of Rights includes protections for withholding rent to pay for neglected repairs by allowing tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent bills. It establishes the county Office of Housing Advocacy, which creates a telephone hotline for tenants who need assistance and oversees compliance with tenant rules. It protects tenants from retaliation if they seek government help in dealing with a landlord, particularly if the landlord pursues an eviction if a tenant called the helpline within the last 60 days. Additionally, the bill requires landlords to notify tenants of a sale of their home at closing and help them identify a new landlord. It prevents discrimination based on past evictions by prohibiting general questions about evictions during the application process, although landlords can still research past evictions. Black and Hispanic mothers and children are disproportionately impacted by eviction. They are “three times more likely to be evicted than another tenant owning the same amount of back rent.” Having an eviction on one’s record makes finding another place to rent challenging. At the same time, Miami Workers Center reports that less than ten percent of tenants in eviction court have access to legal representation.

Women are disproportionately impacted by Miami’s housing crisis, especially women of color. A 2016 study reports that 20.5% of women in Miami-Dade live under the poverty line, nearly five percent more than men. Miami is the most unaffordable housing market in the country, with rent prices up 30% to 40%. As wages remain stagnant and expenses rise, it is becoming harder and harder for Miamians, especially low-wage, service industry and care workers, to get by. The cost of living in Miami is 17% higher than the national average. According to the Community Justice Project, 20,363 evictions were filed from the beginning of the pandemic (March 12, 2020) through December 31, 2021.

Along with housing costs, housing discrimination is also rising. In the first three months of 2022, one in four complaints to the Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights was related to housing. Erin New, the director of the commission, states that in addition to housing complaints, there is also an increase in complaints related to “source of income,” which harms vulnerable populations. The majority of complaints, New says, are “members of traditionally underserved, disadvantaged groups. People of color. People with disabilities. Members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Housing security is critical for formerly incarcerated people and to prevent incarceration. Many nuisance crime arrests in Miami are related to homelessness. In 2021, City of Miami commissioners passed a resolution (4 to 1) that makes homeless encampments illegal, even though housing prices have nearly doubled and wages do not align with rising costs. Without access to affordable and stable housing, it is almost impossible for individuals to avoid homelessness or actions of survival deemed illegal. Women of color are the most vulnerable to becoming homeless after incarceration and face high recidivism rates.

The Miami Tenants Bill of Rights is a victory for tenants, workers, and youth, but, as the Miami Workers Center says, “it is only as strong as it is enforced.” It does not solve the housing crisis, but it is the first step in holding the government and landlords accountable for providing secure housing. The people who build and sustain Miami, the domestic workers, service workers, teachers, janitors, and home care workers, deserve to live here affordably without the fear of eviction and homelessness, and people need protection from arbitrary incarceration. Tenants, and women, are continuing to build power in Miami-Dade.


(By Madeline Ley)

(Madeline Ley is a Miami-based, born and raised in Miami, activist)

(Photo credit: Miami Workers Center)

We criminalized and demonized relief for forty plus years: Of Eviction

The U.S. federal government released $45 billion for rent relief. What happened? On one hand, a great deal … for those lucky few who received the money. But they are the lucky and they are the few. Otherwise, the money has mostly sat in the proverbial vaults. Why? Many policy analysts, activists, advocates and just plain folk have looked at the situation and concluded that many, actually most, states and localities created impossibly cumbersome processes that tenants often found inscrutable, if they found the process at all, and landlords found, or claimed to find, too `burdensome’? While the analyses are informative and hopefully will help streamline programs, significant questions remain. Why did states and localities design such difficult processes for relief? If you were standing on the deck of a ship and saw someone drowning in the water, how many preconditions would you lay before throwing the person a lifeline?

First, as eviction researchers, anti-eviction activists and advocates, and anyone who’s ever been in an eviction proceeding concur, eviction processes in the United States have long been weighted heavily in favor of landlords. Typically, 90% of landlords show up with attorneys, while 10% or fewer of tenants have any legal representation. Then there are arcane processes no one really understands, except that they make it almost impossible for tenants to get anything like justice. For example, Nevada has something called summary eviction process in which a tenant receives a seven-day eviction notice for non-payment of rent. If the tenant doesn’t file an affidavit in court within seven days, the landlord receives automatic approval to evict the tenant. No summons, no complaint, no hearing. The tenant must sue in order to be sued to be evicted. If your head is spinning, call it property vertigo.

Many localities and even some states have passed or are considering right to counsel that would begin to readjust the imbalance and injustice. That would be an important step.

At the same time, questions remain. Are all situations of non-payment really the same? Is there any concern for those who suddenly lose their jobs, fall sick, live with someone who falls sick, and the list goes on? The answer, bluntly, is No. And that No is our national policy of relief.

Since 1980, every national government has demonized and criminalized those who need, and deserve, relief and assistance. From Welfare Queen to Ending Welfare as We Know It, the focus of the assault has been on Black and Brown women. What’s been good for the national goose has been even better for the state and local ganders. Funds for public services were cut, deeper and deeper, in successive decades, those who in any way relied on those funds were criminalized and demonized further and further.

And so here we are, in the second year of a pandemic with its consequent economic crisis, and we’re somehow shocked that states put security before relief. Why is self-attestation such a difficult point for states and localities? Because they fear fraud. Why do they fear fraud? Because those who seek help, who need help, are, by definition, demonic and criminal. Ignore the history of banks in creating the last recession. Too big to fail, too big to jail. Ignore the history of corporate landlords abusing eviction processes to harass tens of thousands of tenants. Ignore the recent history of corporate landlords `finding loopholes’ in the CDC moratorium to continue their practices of mass eviction. Focus instead on the possibility of fraud and create processes that are so difficult, so burdened with evidence, that really no one is meant to apply. And that qualifies as success, by the metrics of the last 40 some years.

This is not even about putting people first, although we should. A government and a country that cares about people at all would set up structures to help them immediately and then worry over the details later. $45 billion would go a long way, but instead it sits in the proverbial vault. If you are standing on the deck of a ship and see someone drowning in the water, do not delay, do not lay preconditions, throw the person a lifeline. Anything else is a crime.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Fresno Bee / SW Parra)

Facing eviction without a lawyer

Amoy Bailey broke her leg, missed work, fell behind in rent, ended up at Bronx Housing Court.

Housing insecurity in the United States has mushroomed in this coronavirus pandemic. Millions of Americans are at risk of becoming evicted. I know what that’s like. When I became physically disabled in a fluke car crash, could no longer work and fell behind in my rent, my New York City landlord quickly filed papers to have me evicted.

Unable to find a pro bono lawyer to represent me, I had to go it alone. Not unusual, unfortunately. Only 10% of tenants in housing court have legal counsel, while 90% of landlords do.

I did, however, learn I had two issues working in my favor. First, the landlord had failed to deliver my eviction papers according to protocol. Second, he had also refused to fix numerous housing code violations, e.g. brown tap water, ceiling holes and leaks. I filed the necessary court forms for both.

But I’ll tell you something. Actually being in the court room, not knowing up from down about its laws, regs, and loopholes when you’re fighting for your life and all you’ve accomplished, heightened anxiety renders you incapable of functioning at your best. Too often, I realize now, I was just following my nose instead of keeping these two critical issues in the forefront.

I arrived in the New York City courtroom alone, passed the all-important advocacy table in the entryway outside, and rushed to the court’s uniformed officer to be marked present. Since it wasn’t yet nine o’clock, I asked permission to speak with advocate. But when I got there, two women were already in line. Scared they’d call my name in the court room and I’d lose the case because I wasn’t there, I rushed back to the officer to ask if I still had time. “Go ahead,” he said, adding another word or two which I didn’t catch. Something by his tone and look conveyed not only power over me, control (which, of course, he had), but also condescension and a level of suspicion, as though I were trying to get one over on him.

When it was finally my turn, the advocate brought up stipulations of settlement, a binding agreement between landlord and tenant. She warned about the hallway stipulation or “hallway stip” in which the landlord’s lawyer takes the tenant away from the courtroom to settle the case. If I preferred to go before the judge instead, she said, I had that right.

Inside, the court attorney called my case. I approached her station, as did the landlord’s lawyer. Either she assumed I understood the procedure and my rights or was unconcerned that I didn’t because, right away, she instructed me to follow him out. Yeah. The dreaded hallway stip. She probably didn’t think I knew about that. I didn’t want to go, but didn’t feel I had a choice.

Out there, he was in charge. He tried various approaches to force my signature, pledging I would pay a monthly amount so indisputably beyond my current means that I would default the very first month. He knew I was out of my depth. He was banking on it. Yet I stood my ground each time until he gave up.

When the court attorney recalled our case, she urged me to have a “conference” – a threesome with her, the landlord’s lawyer, and me – an even more intimidating process since, together, they’d form a tag team. I refused this, too. I wanted the judge.

Finally the moment arrived. Standing up against the rich mahogany wall of the judge’s bench, I handed him documents I prepared detailing the improper delivery of eviction papers and the housing code violations. In answer to my question, he explained ways this could all play out. I couldn’t focus well enough to follow. I only remember his saying, “And then if that happens, you’ll be evicted.” With no breath of time after hearing that word “evicted,” all my repressed terror burst open. Tears flooded my eyes, streamed down my face and out of my nose, and I couldn’t stop. But there was something I really wanted him to know, so I met his eyes and mouthed the words, “I’ve never not paid my rent before.” His eyes conveyed empathy. That, I remember well.

He told me to sit down and compose myself. I crawled back to the pews, head down, sobbing. Lack of privacy intensified the demoralization in court, but that’s part of the whole process of falling from grace in the US. What has always been private becomes public. I have no memory of having stepped up to the judge’s bench again that day, though I may have.

Back with the court attorney, a surprise. She adjourned the case to give the landlord’s lawyer time to locate the process server who supposedly delivered my eviction notice. Now why wasn’t this brought up earlier? Before I was ordered out for the hallway stip? How could that be right? Were the judge to find that the papers had been improperly served, the eviction case against me would have been dismissed. The landlord would surely refile, but it would buy me that precious commodity: time. Time to heal, get back to work, catch up on rent.

The court attorney ordered me to return the following Thursday. I explained that I was scheduled for surgery on my spine on Thursday. She seemed not to believe me, as was her pattern. I didn’t trust her, didn’t like the way her eyes failed to meet mine in our exchanges. She saw no equal in me. She granted me an extension of only seven days. I knew that would never be enough time to recover, and in fact it wasn’t, but I hadn’t a shred of strength left in me to argue.

More court appearances followed. The landlord’s process server never showed up, the housing code violations were never addressed. In that calendar year, 44,572 NYC households were evicted by court order. One of them was mine.

(By Joy Ann Juvelis, Ph.D.)

(Photo Credit: City Limits / Adi Talwar)

(Joy Ann Juvelis PhD is a medical anthropologist whose research has explored barriers to health care for people living with HIV in poverty, homelessness, in jails and prisons, as well as for those being released from correctional facilities. @JAJuvelisPhD)

We must address the racist cruelty: Of eviction

Standing outside a Virginia courthouse, waiting for justice

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”
Heather Heyer

The pandemic turned the economy upside down and inside out, or so we are told. We are also told, still, that `we are all in it together’. Welcome to the place where the theater of cruelty merges with the wretched of the earth, and, through the cataclysmic changes, the worst remains the same and absolutely ordinary. We are talking, once more, of eviction. Two reports appeared today, both focusing on Georgia. In one, we learn that, among African Americans, youth and housing insecurity are primary causes of “vaccine hesitancy”. In the other, we learn that, in the Atlanta metro area, evictions are concentrated in low income and Black, Indigenous, People of Color, BIPOC, neighborhoods. At one level, we learn that we have learned nothing, since, as both reports suggest, these patterns preceded the pandemic and have `simply’ continued. What are we to do with that `simplicity’, with the persistence of systemic racism in the real estate industry as in the courts? And what is to be done?

According to a study of “vaccine hesitancy” among African Americans in Georgia, “COVID-related housing insecurity—difficulty paying the rent or mortgage or even eviction—increased the odds of vaccine resistance sevenfold”. Actually, housing insecurity increased those odds by 7.3-fold. Why does housing insecurity increase those odds so dramatically? According to the report, those living with `housing insecurity’ tend to live in highly segregated neighborhoods, are low wage essential workers, and have little to no access to health care systems. They’re not `hesitant’, they’re excluded. For “highly segregated neighborhood”, read “ghetto”. For “low wage essential worker”, read “indebted servant” or, better, “serf”. Again, that’s not hesitation. That’s feudalism.

According to the second report, five counties make up 63% of the Atlanta metropolitan area population and 74% of its occupied rental units. During the pandemic, eviction filings continued, especially in “hotspots”, census tracts that were below 80% of the Area Median Income, or AMI, and were 50% or more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. These hotspots were not a surprise to the researchers, since, prior to the pandemic, the same neighborhoods were eviction hotspots and the same patterns devastated those neighborhoods, communities, families and individuals. As the authors note at the outset of their report, “An eviction marks a crisis point of housing instability that ripples into nearly every facet of a person’s life and harms future chances of housing security …. With the added urgency of a global pandemic, the impacts of eviction mushroom and tighten the nexus between individual outcomes like an eviction and community-level harm.” In the Atlanta metro area, as across the United States, evictions are working as planned, condemning majority BIPOC communities, especially low- to moderate-income BIPOC communities, to a certain death sentence. None of this is new, even if its context makes it seem worse than before.

We “learn” this week that in Virginia, the Virginia that has improved on its shameful history of mass evictions, high eviction rates, and easy eviction procedures, in that Virginia, “Black women … are disproportionately evicted.” We “learn” this week that in New York, the New York that only recently started distributing any rent relief funds, Black women make up nearly two-thirds of those applying for rent relief. Again, that relief has only now started, barely, reaching people.

In light of the new CDC Eviction Moratorium, and the challenges to it which are currently being argued before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court that barely kept the last CDC Eviction Moratorium going and, with a single vague sentence, tried to gut the New York State Eviction Moratorium, the Eviction Lab took a look at the first iteration of CDC Eviction Moratorium. Here’s what they found: “A large number of eviction cases originate from a relatively small number of Census tracts … Neighborhoods with high eviction filing rates prior to the pandemic continued to see the highest rates during the CDC moratorium … Neighborhoods with high eviction filing rates prior to the pandemic continued to see the highest rates during the CDC moratorium … Prior to the pandemic, Black renters received a disproportionate share of all eviction filings: they made up 22% of all renters in ETS sites, but received 35% of eviction filings. They continued to be over-represented during the CDC moratorium period, receiving 33% of filings.”

What they found is that we have learned absolutely nothing. Where is the outrage at the predictability of these findings? Around the country, activists are pushing, often with success, for right to counsel, where every tenant would have an attorney present and engaged, long before every going to court; Just Cause restrictions, which would require that landlords give just cause before not renewing a lease; sealing eviction records; mandatory mediation; and more. Those are all important policies. At the same time, we have a reckoning due. Where is the outrage at the loss of life, the devastation, the twenty first century version of feudalism? Why does it take a plague for people to begin paying attention to our neighbors, and have we actually begun paying attention, if, in the end, each study concludes that the present and the past are one and the same.


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: ABC News / AP / Ben Finley)

We must address the spectacular, and spectacularly ordinary, cruelty: Of eviction

Cori Bush

“The Mafia is not an outsider in this world; it is perfectly at home. Indeed, in the integrated spectacle it stands as the model of all advanced commercial enterprises”
Guy Debord: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle

At midnight Saturday, as July turned into August, the CDC moratorium on evictions ended. On Tuesday evening, the CDC announced a new set of protections from evictions for those living in communities suffering substantial to high incidences of Covid. This is a 60-day reprieve for which we all owe Representative Cori Bush more than a great deal of thanks. She lit a path out of the darkness, in more ways than one. Cori Bush taught us humanity matters, Black women matter, Brown women matter, Black and Brown children and communities matter, humanity matters. We need that lesson, desperately, as we slog, drenched, in a national theater of cruelty. Consider what happened between midnight, Saturday night, and Tuesday evening. Consider the spectacular, and spectacularly ordinarily cruelty, that greeted and awaited the most vulnerable among us.

St. Louis already had 126 eviction orders pending, and more promised, lots more. In response, St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts announced that he would triple his eviction crew. Sheriff Betts hoped to conduct as many as 30 evictions per day, starting August 9. He explained, “Right off the bat we want to clean up that 126 evictions.” Removing people from their homes in the middle of a pandemic has become an act of cleaning up, if not cleansing.

In New Orleans, located in the epicenter of the current Delta variant crisis, Constable Edwin M. Shorty Jr. issued an order. In order to facilitate the anticipated heavy eviction workload, all full-time and reserve deputies had to be vaccinated by August 16. On Monday, New Orleans’ busiest housing court 58 eviction filings, up from the pandemic moratorium average of one a day. The headline more or less says it all: “New Orleans landlords take advantage of eviction moratorium’s end, file to eject dozens”.

Lest anyone feel geographically smug, on Monday landlords rushed to file evictions in Rhode Island, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. In Idaho, where judges had never recognized the moratorium, it was eviction business as usual. In Connecticut, eviction orders spiked: “Before the federal order was reinstated Wednesday, judges in Connecticut signed a surge of orders that allow state marshals to remove tenants and their belongings from their homes….The 154 families that judges gave the nod to be evicted Monday and Tuesday is double the number of evictions that were being granted in recent weeks. It also mirrors pre-pandemic eviction levels.” Look in that mirror, do not look away. In Delaware, “new eviction filings … spiked to a level not seen since March 2020.” Is this the much heralded return to normal? In Pittsburgh, “on Monday, a day after the federal eviction moratorium ended, court filings to evict people increased 420%.” In Harris County, Texas, there have been 254 eviction filings, between Monday and Thursday of this week. What eviction moratorium? What tenant protections? Where? Not here. Not wherever you’re sitting right now, reading this.

In Georgia, on Friday, July 30, hours before the CDC moratorium would end, faced with 145 writs of eviction and 1650 writs pending, DeKalb Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson signed a new emergency order creating a ban on evictions throughout the county for another 60 days. In her order, Judge Jackson noted, “Without an eviction moratorium, many DeKalb County residents face imminent dispossession of their residences due to widespread arrearages owed to landlords. It is estimated that DeKalb County tenants owe approximately $50,000,000.00 in rent arrearage to landlords. Many of the landlords owed will be legally entitled to proceed with dispossessory actions once the eviction moratorium is lifted. Evictions can have long-lasting consequences for families and individuals, potentially disrupting school and education, worsening health, displacing neighborhood networks of support, and making it more difficult to find safe, affordable housing in the future. Perhaps most importantly, a lack of stable housing directly increases the risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Some people prepared by increasing their eviction crews, others by telling them to `man up’ and take the jab, others by pushing paper as quickly as they could. Other people, like Cori Bush and Asha Jackson, looked at the need, despair, pain, suffering, fear, terror, destruction, they looked at the human tragedy unfolding and they said NO to the inevitability of power, NO to the Mafia model governance, and YES to humanity. Which side are you on?

DeKalb Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit 1: Matt McClain/The Washington Post) (Photo Credit 2: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

We must address the cruelty: Of eviction

At midnight last night, the CDC moratorium on evictions ended. Despite the Delta variant of Covid raging through the country, and the certainty that eviction increases the incidence of Covid. Despite billions of dollars in rent relief sitting idly, criminally, in state coffers, frozen because no one could figure out that for people in distress to have to go through intricate application processes would be both inhuman and futile. Despite the knowledge that the first to suffer, and the ones to suffer most deeply and for the longest period, will be children, especially children of color, children in low to moderate income households. Children. Despite the knowledge that single mothers, which means children, will be the ones to suffer. Despite months of mounting debts, of mounting certainty of imminent eviction once the moratorium ends, despite months of stasis, now, at whatever follows the eleventh hour, now the agencies are `scrambling’. Where were they, where was everyone, for the past six months? We must address the cruelty of this moment. We must address the cruelty of eviction.

Over $40 billion has been allocated for rent relief. That money has been sent to state and local governments, who were supposed to pass it on. Most haven’t. As of now, $3 billion has been distributed. State and local governments `explain’ that there was so much to do, so much money, so many applicants, so much staffing, so much so muchness. Many state and local governments didn’t open their application processes until June. They knew when the moratorium was set to end. State and local government after state and local government now `urges’ and `encourages’ tenants and landlords to apply. Even though, as in Louisiana, of 24,000 tenants who already applied, only 3,000 have been approved. That’s 24,000 households, of which 3,000 have been approved. Those 3,000 don’t necessarily have checks in hand, but they do have approval. For the others, the line has gone dead. And for the other others, the ones who waited to apply or didn’t know, the sky has fallen, as the hospitals in Louisiana fill to overflowing. 

This was all decreed decades ago, with the decision to finance everything with real estate taxes, giving corporate landlords complete and total dominion. They used eviction filings as a routine means of threatening tenants. They continued to do so during the moratorium, and with impunity. Only now, Congress is just beginning to investigate major corporate landlords who routinely  violated the moratorium as well as the rights and lives of thousands of people across the United States.

And what about the children? Children will be the first and last to suffer, and by all accounts, we just don’t care. Or worse. We take pleasure in the suffering of children, other people’s children. In July, Spain extended its eviction moratorium until the end of October. Specifically, Spain extended its eviction for vulnerable people, including children, minors, dependents, and survivors of sexual violence. Spain has also provided additional support, financial and otherwise, to those who have suffered economic distress due to and during the pandemic. Why does Spain cherish its children more than the United States?

Cruelty occurs when people commit violence because they’re indifferent to the pain of others or they take pleasure in inflicting pain on others. The cruelty of eviction addresses our system of disposable populations, whole Black and Brown neighborhoods and communities, all trying to make it through another day, all told, “Too bad. We tried. The check is in the mail, but you won’t get it. So sorry.” The eviction moratorium ended last night at midnight. The check is in the mail. 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: The New York Times / Sally Ryan)

Why do landlords have so much discretionary, and ultimately fatal, power?

Yesterday, Virginia’s Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne informed the Virginia House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee that the Commonwealth of Virginia is looking at a $2 billion surplus. The Virginia state legislature will meet in special session, starting August 2, to decide how to divide the Covid relief moneys. No matter what they decide, $2 billion is a lot of money. And yet … and yet people concerned about eviction are worried, very worried. Why? Partly because the money in Virginia, as elsewhere, has moved at a snail’s pace. The process of application is cumbersome and, for many, almost impossible. The scale of demand has far exceeded the capacity of state agencies. But there’s something else, something more structural than agency capacity and poorly designed procedures: landlords’ discretionary power. 

Virginia has more than a billion dollars in aid for people behind on rent”. Again, that’s a lot of money, and, again, people who need that money and their allies, communities and networks are worried. Why? “To tap into $1 billion worth of federal aid earmarked for Virginia, tenants or their landlords must proactively apply, and there’s no longer any rules requiring property owners to cooperate.”

Fairfax County, in northern Virginia, is the second richest county in the United States, a close to its neighbor, Loudoun County. Despite its great wealth, and despite the fact that it has access to great sums of rent relief money, Fairfax County officials and advocates are worried about eviction. Why? “Although Fairfax officials and other stakeholders say there’s plenty of emergency rental assistance to help low-income residents, they are concerned that it’s taking too long to get that money to landlords. County officials said that even if the rental assistance is available, landlords may decide it’s not worth it to wait months to receive the overdue rent and may evict their tenants anyway.”

Landlords may decide it’s not worth it to wait months to receive the overdue rent and may evict their tenants anyway.

Despite all the research and all the public discussion of the intimate link between transmission of the pandemic and eviction, between health and housing more generally, landlords still get to decide whose life is `worth it’ and whose life is not worth it. Do not ask what it is … 

Across the country, local jurisdictions are responding to this injustice. Some are instituting “just cause” eviction restrictions, others are going with right to counsel. Philadelphia, today, approved legislation to restrict landlords’ decision-making process. From now, landlords will not be able to deny potential tenants just because they have low credit scores or past evictions or evictions filings. The landlords’ process will have to be transparent and rational. Housing is not only a right, it’s also a matter of life and death, and that matter is passed down from one generation to the next. 

How did landlords become the arbiters of life and death, in the midst of a pandemic … or ever? Where does landlords’ discretionary power come from? And why and h ow did we let this happen? On one hand, the answer is in decades of real estate driven urban economies, that reward White homeowners and punish Black and Brown renters, creating an ever wider racial wealth gap, that is also a death gap. Some live long, others are “not worth it”, and the necropolitical maps of `urban development’ proceed. At its source, the concept of landlord is the power of a lord, “the male head of a household; a man who has authority over servants, attendants, or slaves.” It’s time to rewrite the terms and change the power. Our lives are worth it.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: NBC Washington)


The eviction rate is too damn high everywhere … especially in Alexandria, Virginia!

Remember the rent is too damn high? It was, and it still is, in many areas actually getting much worse. You know what else is too damn high? Rates of eviction. Numbers of eviction are too damn high, and rates of eviction are too damn high. Take Alexandria, Virginia, nestled in the leafier part of what is known as the DMV, DC – Maryland – Virginia. 

According to the most recent report from the Eviction Lab, at Princeton University, in the 5 states and 27 cities the Lab tracks, last week, landlords filed for 5,460 evictions. That’s up from 4,937 in the previous weekly report, and the numbers have been rising lately.

In Virginia, according to the most recent Quarterly Report from the RVA Eviction Lab, directed by Kathryn Howell at Virginia Commonwealth University, even though eviction filings and judgements have been down these past three months (and the year prior), primarily thanks to federal and Commonwealth moratoria, there are still “high levels of housing instability and eviction pressures”, especially, and predictably, in Black and Brown neighborhoods, also most devastatingly hit by the pandemic. Who is particularly targeted by evictions, nationally, in Virginia, prior to the pandemic, during the pandemic? Women of color.

While the report notes that, of the northern Virginia jurisdictions, Fairfax County ranks fifth in eviction filings and eighth in judgments, there’s another tale of numbers in Northern Virginia. Fairfax County’s population is 1,146,000; Arlington County’s Population is 236,842; Alexandria’s population is 157,613.  In the first quarter of 2021, Alexandria had 129 filings and 35 evictions; Arlington had 73 filings and 31 evictions; Fairfax County had 288 filings and 84 evictions. 

Relative to its population, Alexandria’s rate of eviction filing is four times that of Fairfax County, and almost three times that of Arlington County. Why? Residents of Alexandria, ask your City Council, why is the rate of eviction in our city so damn high? The rent is too damn high. The rate of eviction is too damn high. 


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: New York Times / Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)