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Housing Advocates Worry About Spike In Evictions As Pandemic Support For Renters Ends

Photo of houses in Salt Lake City.
Brian Albers
The CDC’s eviction moratorium lasts until Dec. 31, and the state’s rental assistance funding needs to be used up by then, too. Advocates worry about a gap in support for renters negatively financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Programs designed to keep people housed during the coronavirus pandemic are ending as 2020 comes to a close.

Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership has given out $1.7 million since May to help 786 households in Weber County pay rent and other expenses.

Jordan Barrett, community support manager for the organization, said applications for help have only gone up since then.

One reason, he said, is people are more aware of the program as the Utah Department of Workforce Services has ramped up advertising around it.

Another, he suggested, is a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“I also think that with the numbers going up, more people are actually getting sick or being quarantined and becoming in need recently,” Barrett said.

Data from the Utah State Courts show eviction filings are actually down from last year in Weber County — and across the state.

A graph of Weber County's weekly evictions.
Jenny Gnagey, Ogden Civic Action Network
Eviction filings in Weber County on average are down in 2020, compared to 2019.

Jenny Gnagey, an economics professor at Weber State University and a housing advocate with the Ogden Civic Action Network, said that’s likely due to eviction freezes at the state and federal levels.

“There was a brief period during the summer where there was no eviction moratorium in place,” Gnagey said. “That's the only time where [the 2020 eviction filings] sort of noticeably spiked above the level from 2019. So I think that's some evidence that there is a backlog of evictions waiting to take place when moratoriums are lifted.”

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium and state housing assistance programs ending, she is concerned about a wave of people being displaced from their homes.

“I am worried that there is going to be a large spike in eviction filings,” she said. “Nobody really has very good data about how big that is going to be.”

Jonathan Hardy, housing and community development director for the state’s Department of Workforce Services, said out of the $20 million allocated to Utah’s rental assistance program, $15 million has already been spent — and the rest of that money has to be used by the end of the year.

He said he’s concerned about the gap in support that comes after that.

“We’ve made a pitch to try to get some more rental assistance money from the state come Jan. 1,” Hardy said. “We’re also keeping our eye on what’s happening at the federal level, hoping some action gets done to help shore up rental assistance while we’re still dealing with this pandemic.”

The federal eviction moratorium lasts until Dec. 31 and the deadline to apply for the state’s rental assistance program is Dec. 15. But officials warn, even if people apply for the program by then, there’s no guarantee there will be funding still available.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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