PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Many families are feeling a temporary sense of relief as the CDC extended its eviction moratorium again until the end of July, but the struggle to find an affordable place to live is not getting any easier in the Tampa Bay area.
“All I can call myself is a hamster on a wheel because I can go and go and go and it’s just never good enough,” Lynn Metzger told ABC Action News.
Metzger lives in an apartment in Dunedin with her two children who attend the local high school.
“They’re with my mom and my family in New York right now and that’s where they need to be until I have a home,” she said with tears in her eyes.
When the pandemic hit, Metzger lost all five of her hospitality jobs — from cleaning airplanes and homes to serving at sporting events.
She tried picking up shifts cleaning shopping carts, but the harsh reality hit when it came to paying rent every month.
She is now so behind in payments, the only thing keeping a roof over her head is the extension of the CDC’s eviction moratorium to July 31.
“I'm back to work now, slowly, but my wages aren’t enough to get me another place,” Metzger explained, “I have to make three times the amount of income, and even with my jobs, it's not three times the amount of income, that's right off the bat.”
Metzger sought help from the Community Law Program in Pinellas County.
“We just have more and more people that are being impacted and being displaced due to the lack of adequate housing and the landlords themselves are caught in a position where they need the funds, some of them, to exist,” said Attorney Nancy Roden.
The firm has seen hundreds of people in Metzger’s position. Currently, Roden is working on about 50 cases.
“Despite the moratoriums, we have seen writs getting served and people being displaced from their housing, simply because they didn't get there in time, and respond appropriately to the court action so the landlords are progressing with getting the writs issued, and then the people are ending up being displaced,” Roden explained.
The moratorium only qualifies if a form is filled out and given to the landlord.
ABC Action News went to the Pinellas County clerk to see just how many people had been court-ordered to leave their homes since the pandemic began.
We found 3,327 writs of possession were issued in 2020 and 1,330 in 2021.
Florida’s moratorium lasted from April 2 to October 1.
The CDC’s moratorium started in September.
When we took a closer look at the numbers in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, we also found the moratoriums were the most effective in stopping evictions when they were first put into effect.
In Hillsborough County, evictions are now much lower than in Pinellas. The county tells me judges aren’t signing off on any eviction proceedings until the moratorium ends.
“There's hundreds of cases in the system right now, there might be some landlords that are waiting until the CDC expires to file the cases so I think we could see an influx of new cases so overwhelming the courts,” Roden exclaimed.
Most counties have emergency rental assistance programs in place helping people pay rent. Roden says the paperwork can be tedious and sometimes landlords can’t or won’t wait for the funds to actually come through.
“We are seeing the dynamics for a lot of households, beginning to change,” explained Aubrey Phillips, the strategic performance manager for the Pinellas County Office of Management & Budget, “Particularly as the housing market has picked up as time has gone on, particularly smaller landlords have a really hard time dealing with the financial burden of a tenant who may be behind on rent.”
In 2020, the CARES Act assisted more than 8,600 households in Pinellas County.
The current rental assistance program has helped 480 households in the last three months.
Phillips said they aren’t worried about funding running out, but when we asked if it was working, she paused and said, I think that question probably goes beyond just the scope of these assistance programs, you know, it has to do with economic opportunities. You know, housing affordability more broadly and those are definitely issues that are top priorities for Pinellas County."
Metzger said she’s put more than $600 dollars into application fees for apartments and it has even started to hurt her credit.
She tried to get affordable housing but said the waitlist is more than three years long for a family unit in Dunedin.
The county has five housing authorities, the largest is the Pinellas County Housing Authority.
We reached out to see what their wait times are like. They tell us since no one is moving out, their waits are anywhere from two to five years right now.
- One-bedroom apartments for 62 and older residents have 300 applicants
- Five-bedroom apartments at Rainbow Village have 690 applicants
- One to three-bedroom apartments at the Landings at Cross Bayou have 977 applicants
They are working on an additional 64 units in Seminole and construction could start at the end of the year.
“I pray that... something’s gonna come up,” Metzger said, “For my kids... my hope is to be able to bring them home and have a roof over their head when they start school in August again.”
- Pinellas County, click here.
- Hillsborough County, click here.
- Pasco County, click here.
- Polk County, click here.
If you are facing homelessness in several Tampa Bay counties, you can find resources in this article, click here.