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Rent Zero Kansas demands Commissioners address growing eviction cliff

(Rosemond Crown)
Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 12:28 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Kansas tenants group is demanding that County Commissioners around Kansas address the growing eviction cliff.

Rent Zero Kansas says with the federal and state governments' neglect of housing insecurity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now demanding action from County Commissioners around the state.

RZKS said in a letter to county commissioners throughout the state, the coalition of Kansas renters issued four demands for addressing the ongoing eviction crisis before the federal eviction moratorium expires on December 31, 2020. It said it demands commissioners to suspend rent and mortgage payments, strengthen eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, ban utility shut-offs and restore services and protect residents experiencing homelessness by providing housing and expanding services.

“Without policies to forgive and suspend back payments, the current moratorium only creates a start date for mass eviction filings,” said Vince Munoz, a tenants organizer with Rent Zero Kansas. “December 31– which is one of the coldest days of the year– should be viewed as an eviction cliff we’re heading toward.”

According to Munoz, data nationwide supports the assessment that when moratoriums expire, eviction filings will spike.

“You’d expect eviction filings to spike roughly 30 days after the Cares Act’s ban on eviction filings ended, along with unemployment-insurance subsidies, in late July,” wrote Alieza Durana and Anne Kat Alexander, researchers for Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. “That’s what we found — at least in cities that lacked their own eviction moratoriums.”

Durana and Alexsander said that compared to averages from recent years, landlords in Fort Worth, Tex., filed double the eviction cases in the first week of September. They said similarly, in Richmond, Virg., residents experienced four times the eviction filings than previous years.

RZKS said Kansas got a preview of what happens when moratoriums lapse in August.

According to RZKS, Kanas News Service interviewed Sheena Mooney, of Topeka, who was evicted three days before Governor Laura Kelly implemented a new eviction moratorium after the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits.

“These arbitrary deadlines without comprehensive solutions have consequences for real people,” said Magda Werkmeister, a housing organizer with Rent Zero Kansas.

RZKS said not all renters are affected equally, however. It said the Eviction Lab found that Black women are evicted at double the rate of white renters.

According to the Kansas group, the letter targets count commissioners due to the uncertainty of federal and state interventions. It said enhanced unemployment benefits expired in the summer, and Congress has yet to agree on additional funding. It said state legislature will not meet again until late January, well after the moratorium is set to expire.

“As the late John Lewis once wrote, ‘We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us.’ With leadership lacking elsewhere, now is your time,” reads the letter.

To read the full letter, click here.

For more information on projections for the coming wave of evictions in Kansas, click here.

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