The federal moratorium on tenant evictions expired months ago, but we’re only now starting to see the impact with eviction hearings spiking in Rhode Island. (WJAR)
The federal moratorium on tenant evictions expired months ago, but we’re only now starting to see the impact with eviction hearings spiking in Rhode Island.
The NBC 10 I-Team found eviction hearings have more than doubled between December and January, increasing from 277 to 558. Year over year, hearings have jumped 20%.
The increase is prompted by several factors, including courts catching up on a backlog of cases. Eviction filings jumped in September after the moratorium was lifted but have remained steady since then, indicating courts are now playing catch up.
Belinda Philippe of ONE Neighborhood Builders, a Providence nonprofit that creates affordable rental housing, said she’s not surprised by the sudden rise.
“Individuals waited until the urgency was there because they weren’t used to having that life choice of: Do I pay my rent? Am I actually going to be homeless? Am I actually going to be displaced?” said Philippe.
Philippe believes many tenants failed to apply for rental assistance right away because they’ve never been in this situation before and had hoped to pull themselves out of it.
Beauty Muhlenburg of Providence found herself in that exact situation when she fell several months behind on rent.
“As a person, you never want to ever feel homelessness. It’s not a good feeling,” she said.
Muhlenburg is a mother of six who was struggling to get by after losing her job during the pandemic and dealing with the death of her mother.
Philippe said the high cost of living is pricing people out of their homes.
“The market rate is a lot higher than the 30% that we say can become a housing burden if a household is paying more than 30% of their income, especially in Rhode Island and specifically Providence, is housing-cost burdened,” she said.
While federal rent relief is still available, the program may run out of money within the next year.
“It’s potentially projected to come to a close or expunge all of the funds that have been allocated by December 2022,” Philippe said.