Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Advocates demand local eviction moratoriums before thousands lose their homes in metro Detroit

Posted By on Wed, Sep 1, 2021 at 4:03 PM

click to enlarge Sarah Torres of the Moratorium Now! Coalition joins activists in Detroit calling for local and state eviction moratoriums. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Sarah Torres of the Moratorium Now! Coalition joins activists in Detroit calling for local and state eviction moratoriums.

After the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic last week, tens of thousands of metro Detroit renters are at risk of losing their apartments, housing advocates say.

Activists gathered in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue Wednesday to call on local and state officials to impose a moratorium on evictions and speed up the release of financial assistance set aside to help pay delinquent rents.

“There is no reason for people to be evicted at this point in time as we wade through the trouble of this pandemic,” said Yvonne Jones of the Moratorium Now! Coalition. “We’re demanding that the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, get up off his ass and do something now. They have the money and the ability to help.”

Detroit and Michigan each had moratoriums on evictions but let them expire months ago. In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide moratorium for communities experiencing high levels of COVID-19 transmission. The ban prohibited landlords from evicting residents in metro Detroit.

But last week, the Supreme Court struck down the moratorium.

“Housing is a human right,” said Sarah Torres of the Moratorium Now! Coalition. “Everyone deserves to be in a home.”

Some states, including California, Maryland, and New Jersey, still have eviction moratoriums, as do cities such as Boston and Los Angeles.

Duggan’s office didn’t respond for a comment.

Housing advocates also are demanding the release of financial assistance from the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which was funded as part of the federal pandemic relief packages. Of the nearly $47 billion made available nationwide, more than $600 million went to Michigan. But most of the money has not been distributed, and state officials said they’re scrambling to process the applications.

“The money is not being disbursed,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, a Detroit organizer with Moratorium Now! Coalition. “There are people in need who haven’t been able to pay rent for more than one year. That is totally unacceptable.”

Roughly 61,000 metro Detroit residents are facing eviction, according to the Legal Aid and Defender Association, a Detroit-based nonprofit that serves vulnerable and underserved populations.

On Wednesday, the group announced a partnership with Oakland County and Detroit to provide a homelessness prevention program for residents facing evictions or foreclosure because of COVID-19. The group is holding a fundraiser from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 30 at the House of Pure Vin at 1433 Woodward Ave. in Detroit. The event will feature wine tasting with food paints, music from DJ Emmett Burkes and speakers.

Brian Silverstein, of the activist group Detroit Will Breathe, said the problem goes far beyond evictions.

“This is much more than an eviction crisis. This is connected to the larger housing crisis in this city,” Silverstein said. “It is a process of gentrification and displacement on a racist basis. We don’t have a place to live. We’re constantly being pushed from one rat-infested, flooded apartment to another.”

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