TAMPA, Fla. — Local and state housing reform activists are calling on Governor Ron DeSantis to push back the eviction moratorium for at least another month. The moratorium is set to expire Wednesday, July 1.
Even if an extension is granted, thousands of Floridians could soon be at risk of losing their homes.
Donald Harper worries that could be the case for his family if he and his wife are forced to dip into their savings much longer. Harper recently was laid off from his job as a chef. He and his wife recently dipped into money they received for their wedding to pay for rent.
“I wonder like where are we going to go because family members their house is full, neighbors’ houses are full. “No one should be put out of their homes because of COVID-19.””
Attorneys have filed more than 3,600 eviction petitions statewide since the COVID-19 crisis, which are frozen for the time being. Now, Tampa Bay non-profit groups worry when evictions begin again, they won’t be able to help everyone with emergency housing.
Christine Long at Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa says they’ve helped a record number of people during the pandemic, but resources will be limited if hundreds of families are displaced all at once.
“It breaks my heart,” Long said with emotion.
Kirk Ray Smith at RCS Pinellas worries about that too.
“Are we going to be overwhelmed? Is it going to be so many cases and so many situations that we can’t keep up and that’s my biggest fear."
Housing activists are asking the governor to extend the moratorium back 90 days, giving people time to land new jobs.
Landlord and president of the Florida Landlord Network Paul Howard says that troubles him.
“If someone came to you and said you have to pay someone’s car payment until the government says you don’t have to pay it anymore how would you feel about that? It’s a serious situation,” Howard explained.
Half of Howard’s 20 tenants stopped paying their rent, leaving him to cover the expense. He says he has tried working with his tenants to get up a payment plan but only 2 of the tenants are working with him.
“Landlords do not have deep pockets as a general rule so it would be very very hard,” he said.
Metropolitan Ministries and RCS Pinellas are working to open more space in shelters and free up money for rental assistance while preparing for the inevitable.
“The hardest thing about our job is turning people away,” Smith said with a sigh.
“Soon there will be a huge influx of folks who can’t pay their rent, haven’t been able to pay it and find they will be evicted. It’s going to be really rough,” Long added.