OGDEN — Eviction moratoriums implemented due to the economic slowdown seem to have had an impact, helping some struggling Weber County renters stay in their homes.
With another federal moratorium implemented on Sept. 4, Jennifer Gnagey, an adjunct economics professor at Weber State University, holds out hope that will forestall additional evictions. Still, looking long term, she has her doubts. The latest freeze goes through Dec. 31, and she and others wonder — what happens after that?
“The moratoriums are going to stop, and I do worry about a huge surge in evictions,” said Gnagey.
Similarly, Christine Ipsen, executive director of the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership, or OWCAP, said the specter of evictions as the economy stops and starts owing to the COVID-19 pandemic is a “real concern.” Some $1.26 million is earmarked for rental assistance programs managed by OWCAP for Weber County residents and $473,800 of that had been disbursed as of Sept. 4 to 377 households. Even so, she worries.
“If the evictions occur in large numbers, the community’s numbers of individuals and families experiencing homelessness will increase, and it is uncertain if the amount of services and resources available will increase to match the need,” Ipsen said.
As the economy slowed, the jobless rate in Weber County surged, from 3.1% in March, before the downturn, to 10.7% in April, paralleling a national trend. The local rate has since eased to 5.3% as of July, the latest figure available. But many worry that the economy is still potentially fragile, and Gnagey and others are closely monitoring the situation and pushing to get the word out about the resources available to renters on shaky ground.
Andi Beadles hopes the moratorium implemented last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in combination with OWCAP rental assistance programs are enough to get those who need help on more solid footing. She’s executive director of the Weber Housing Authority, which offers housing assistance to low- and moderate-income residents.
She also noted that some requirements in the rental assistance programs have been eased, potentially opening them up to more people. “There is no longer the requirement that households must be denied unemployment benefits before they receive the rental assistance,” she said. “This should allow additional households to qualify for the rental assistance.”
For those owing several months of back rent, though, the situation could be more tenuous. Rental assistance programs typically cover only a limited number of months, usually three. Thus, if a renter is out of work and owes more, say five months of rent, Beadles worries their options may be limited.
“It will be very difficult for a household to come up with five months of rent before the moratorium expires,” she said. In such an instance, she advises renters to work with their landlords to sort things out.
‘PRETTY COMPREHENSIVE’ MORATORIUMThe new CDC moratorium is “pretty comprehensive,” Gnagey said. More details are online in a fact sheet on the Alliance For Housing Justice website. A prior moratorium implemented per the federal CARES Act went from March 27 through July 25 and a moratorium implemented by Utah officials went from April 1 through May 15.
And all told, Gnagey said eviction filings by landlords against tenants for overdue rent in Ogden’s 2nd District Court indicate they’ve had the effect they’re supposed to — keeping renters in their homes. Between March 27 and July 25, when the prior federal moratorium was in effect, eviction filings (116) were about half the level they were in the same period a year before in 2019, when the figure totaled 240. By contrast, from July 26 through the present, when no moratorium was in effect, eviction filings (106) held steady with the total in the same period last year (101).
Gnagey will be watching to see what sort of impact the latest eviction moratorium has. But having reviewed the 2nd District Court eviction filings, pulled the 2019 figures, she worries there are other issues at play that also bear on evictions, notably a lack of affordable housing.