Low-income tenants in New Jersey will still be protected from eviction for non-payment of rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic until the end of 2021, even though the United States Supreme Court has suspended the last week the latest moratorium on federal evictions.
Eligible New Jersey tenants are currently protected from the court ruling by a state moratorium on evictions that was imposed by Gov. Phil Murphy in March 2020 and will continue for low and moderate income tenants until ‘at the end of the year.
Housing advocates have condemned the court’s 6-3 decision that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority in imposing the nationwide ban. They said eviction bans such as New Jersey’s kept people housed at a time of extreme economic distress and helped slow the spread of COVID-19 by keeping people in their homes.
They said New Jersey tenants would not be immediately affected by the end of the federal measure, which national housing groups say could result in the eviction of millions of people in other states.
NJ has “some of the strongest protections”
“Our state has enjoyed some of the strongest protections that have replaced those of the federal government,” said Sharon Barker, vice president of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, in a statement. “New Jersey has a program for households in need of assistance and we are a leader in the country in providing that assistance as quickly and fairly as possible.”
She said the court ruling puts millions of people at risk from the resurgent pandemic as they may be forced to share housing with others if they are evicted, and undermines the efforts of state and local agencies that distribute the disease. rent aid accompanying the moratorium.
The New Jersey Apartment Association, which represents large homeowners, agreed that the court ruling would have little impact in New Jersey due to its ban on eviction and a new law that gradually removes the moratorium on New Jersey. State and provides more rent assistance while providing legal remedies. to owners.
But the business group’s executive director, David Brogan, said the state has been slow to pay federal rent assistance to landlords, who have been unable to evict tenants during the pandemic despite a drop of at least 10% of rental income during the pandemic.
Brogan said $ 1.2 billion in federal rent assistance is available to New Jersey landlords, but he estimated that only 11% of that has been distributed by the Department of Community Affairs so far. Even if the full amount had been paid, that would still only represent about half of the $ 2.34 billion in rent arrears that the association says landlords are owed.
Rental aid at the “glacial rhythm”
“The freezing pace of rent assistance payments is putting additional pressure on landlords and tenants,” Brogan said in a statement. “It is totally unreasonable to expect that landlords can continue to meet their financial obligations without rental income.”
He predicted that any further delay in paying rent assistance to landlords and tenants would cause small landlords to sell their properties and deter new entrants into the business, reducing housing availability on the market. New Jersey’s already very expensive market.
Tenants applying for rental assistance apply to DCA through a lottery. If selected, they must meet the eligibility criteria. If these are satisfied, the money is paid to the owner.
Brogan’s calculation of the total rent arrears owed to landlords due to the pandemic is based on an estimate that 100,000 New Jersey households, or 10% of the total, are not paying rent. With an average statewide rent of $ 1,300 per month, that’s $ 130 million that landlords don’t receive monthly, for a total of $ 2.34 billion over the 18 months of the pandemic , did he declare.
The Department of Community Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
Had the CDC’s moratorium been authorized by the Supreme Court, it would have extended protection to New Jersey residents with 80 to 120 percent of the region’s median income after the state’s moratorium expired in December, Beverly said. Brown Ruggia, director of the financial justice program for New Jersey Citizen Action, which advocates for economic and racial justice.
Rent assistance is one of many measures designed to prevent a surge in evictions when the New Jersey moratorium is lifted. Other guarantees are included in a new law (S-3691) which converts the rental debt accumulated during the pandemic into civil debt; prevent this debt from being used to evict a tenant; protects credit records and creates an eviction prevention office.
Nearly 51,000 eviction requests were filed by landlords in New Jersey courts between August 2020 and the end of July, according to court data, fueling earlier predictions by housing advocates of a “tsunami” of eviction in New Jersey. the end of the state ban. Homeowners are allowed to make the deposits even though the courts cannot issue an eviction order while the ban is in effect.
In July, Essex County recorded by far the highest number of deposits, 944, followed by Middlesex County, with 461, according to the data.
Housing advocates now say rent assistance for tenants and landlords – and provisions in the new law – could prevent an upsurge in evictions when the state’s ban ends.
“We hope there won’t be a big tsunami of evictions now that there is significant additional aid for rentals and utilities, if the state pays people money before the end of the year. 2021, “said Renee Koubiadis, director of the anti-poverty program for Citizen. Action New Jersey.
Tenants who fear eviction should determine if they are eligible for rental assistance by going to https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/renter, said Nina Rainiero, spokesperson for Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. Those who are not eligible can get advice from a certified housing counselor by going to Housinghelpnj.org, she said.