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Evicted tenants will seek scarce affordable housing when the moratorium ends

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jul 30, 2021

"No one wants to rent to you with an eviction," said Michelle Brooks.

Michelle Brooks said she would be on the street if it were not for her grandmother taking her and her children in.

She was first evicted in 2018 when she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and unable to work.

“So, I was homeless for about a year. With my three kids and we were living in cars in hotels and people’s couches,” Brooks said.

She eventually found a house, but then in the middle of the pandemic, she faced eviction for a second time.

“I could not find one spot in an emergency shelter or hotel voucher. I couldn’t find anything, so we would live in the car,” she said.

Brooks has finally been put on the waitlist for an affordable housing voucher through the Tampa Housing Authority.

ABC Action News reached out to the housing authority to see what their wait times are. The waitlist for Hillsborough County affordable housing is two years or more.

With the federal eviction moratorium set to expire Saturday, thousands of Tampa Bay residents behind on rent will be looking for a new place to live and help to pay the rent.

“We are at capacity. Most of our families, they’ve come to us due to evictions or loss of income,” said Zackia Robinson, Metropolitan Ministries Associate Director of Intake.

Robinson said the need for rental assistance grew by 1,100% at Metropolitan Ministries during the pandemic and they are preparing for a surge of newly evicted tenants to end up at their door.

“Making sure we have staff in place to meet those client's needs. Making sure we have the resources in place as well,” Robinson said.

Resources including giving motel vouchers to families until they find somewhere stable to live.

“It’s very possible that your homeless population may triple, quadruple. That could happen I would not be surprised,” said Daniel Drake.

Attorney Daniel Drake specializes in evictions. “If the judge agrees with the landlord that the tenant should’ve paid rent and they didn’t, then they’ll issue a Writ of Possession that’s given to the sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department in a few days goes out and posts the Writ of Possession under the door. And they don’t serve it yet, they post it, so you see it and it says 24 hours to vacate,” he explained.

Drake said he’s expecting a flood of new eviction cases.

But it’s not too late to apply for rental assistance through state and local government programs.

“Initially the City of Lakeland was not in the business of rental assistance. We only did owner-occupied rehab and home purchase assistance. And just because of COVID we’re doing rental and utility assistance,” said Annie Gibson, Lakeland Housing Program Supervisor

Gibson said so far, the City has handed out $1.3 million to help those behind on rent payments due to COVID-19.

Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa have distributed $11.6 million through its Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Though help is still available, Gibson said the application process can take a while. For many frustrated tenants, assistance can’t come soon enough.

“Hard pill to swallow, I can't provide for them and I'm trying to do the best I can,” said Brooks.