OAKLAND (KPIX) – When California placed a moratorium on evictions it was to prevent people who lost work from ending up homeless. But the back rent is piling up and experts say if something isn’t done the results could be disastrous.
Nearly two-thirds of homes in the city of Oakland are rentals and housing advocates say 10-20,000 residents may be at risk of eviction because of the pandemic. Orlando Zepeda is afraid he’s about to become one of them.
“I’m very concerned,” he said. “Right now, I just got laid off work, so, I am very worried about not having the money to pay all the rent that I owe.”
He has a lot of company according to a nationwide survey from the data firm, Apartment List. Before the pandemic, the people who failed to make housing payments on time hovered at about 3 to 4 percent.
“That percentage has increased dramatically,” said Apartment List research associate Rob Warnock. “In the last month we ran the survey it sat at 32 percent.”
One in three households did not make their July housing payment on time. The eviction ban is protecting cash-strapped people who forgo paying but at some point the moratorium will be lifted and a lot of people are going to owe money they do not have.
“They are rent-burdened and they are in danger of being evicted. So there is a catastrophe in the making,” said James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenant’s Union.
Vann said local governments simply can’t let that happen.
“The society, the city, the budget — none of those things can stand thousands of people being evicted at one time,” he said.
Vann says Alameda County has discussed the idea of lending money to pay the landlords and giving tenants 2 years to repay the loan, but nothing has come of it, so far. Now, with the threat of tens of thousands of people pushed into the streets, they may be forced to revisit the issue.
It’s not just in the Bay Area grappling with the problem. Housing advocates estimate that, nationwide, 20 million people may be subject to eviction in the near future because of the pandemic.