From The New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. As Congress closes in on a new round of pandemic relief, a major question is what it will do to protect millions of Americans from eviction. Today, my colleagues Stella Tanna and Matthew Desmond on one family's struggle to hold on to their home. It's Friday, December 18th.
Right now, one thing that's really been on a lot of people's minds is there is extreme anxiety among those who don't have income flowing in right now.
Nearly one third of people who rent their home in the United States did not pay their April rent.
It's been emblazoned on the side of some office buildings. Cancel the rent.
But what do you do with all the landlords who have mortgages? The mortgages do. The renters do. If you live in federally funded housing, there has been a 120 day freeze on evictions.
The moratoriums buy you time, but will require you to eventually pay the landlord for any rent passed if they do not pay the full balance of their rent.
That's when eviction proceedings could. So in the meantime, what do you do if you can't pay your rent tomorrow? Hello, hello, hello, this is Yolanda. Hi, and this is fellow from The New York Times.
How are you?
Over the summer, as the country was facing record unemployment, I started looking into what was going on with housing and rent. And in July, I got in touch with a woman in a suburb of Atlanta named Yolanda Jackson.
I wonder if you could just start by telling me a little bit about yourself. Have you always lived in Georgia? No, I'm from Illinois. So I moved to Georgia about 15 years ago. And so you have two kids? Yes, 20 and 15. Are they going stir crazy during the pandemic or how that going? I mean, my surgery is a revolving door, so nobody is getting along with driving without crazy. So have you always lived in the place where you live now, the neighborhood and the building, or did you kind of move around Georgia a little bit?
Well, I've been in this area since I moved to Georgia and I've been over in this complex for the last seven years. So this is home. You know, we're comfortable. We're safe. I had no real issues aside from the rent increases, but that's just the way of life.
So when this even though the rent for the apartment costs more than half her income, it was a struggle, but it was worth it for my children, even though she said she was doing her best to make it work. Yeah, well, I wanted to I wanted a little bit of a sense of what life was like before all this hit, you know, what was your job? And I was at the school working as a special paraprofessional.
Yolanda was working two jobs while finishing up her teaching degree late afternoon evenings where I tutored and supported kids with disabilities, just trying to get them, you know, as independent into their level as possible. So, I mean, since March 17th, when everything just that when they both were down permanently. That is by all is like the bottom fell out, is like the bottom fell out because when everything happened in the army had to be sustained beyond what was sort of going through your mind.
Like what what were the calculations that you do have to make? It was this I wasn't prepared, you know, but I had already had my system. That's where I pay my bills from. So, you know, I just had to enable everything. I ran the 13, 14, and right away that was the big expense. I had a costume that I was trying to help him out so he didn't get a full ride. So I had put some of his tuition on a payment plan.
So I was by to 40 a month for him. So when I came back to the States, you know, you got all this stuff coming out and you don't have anything family.
Yolanda applied for unemployment, but the payments got tied up in the system. So while she waited, she tried to work something out with the landlord and she showed me the correspondence she had with the landlord's representative. And she said, the contract, I can't pay the rent. And so I said, get out of the lease. And she told me not they'll be responsible for the penalty and pay me, but they just kept putting more and more fees.
And I was like, I'm trying to get you the phone because I understand I owe because you can't live for free anywhere. It was just Wistar Attack and all those fees. I haven't had income from so far behind. I mean, I packed up my house, I mean, right now we're living in boxes, I started because anything I could think about was. When are the marshals going to come in and set us out, possibly, you know, so I'm just living out of boxes because I just don't know when our time is up.
And I'm like, I have nowhere to go. I have no family here. So I just try to keep my family safe and healthy. And as I say, back it up. If they come, at least I can get a U-Haul and we'll just put it on the U-Haul and I'll just go from there because I don't know what else to do. My back is against the wall and that's just how I felt, you know, with no finances.
I know that you can't live for free, but I also know that things have to be put in place to get these finances rolling again. As Yolanda was figuring out what to do, Congress was taking action at the end of March, Congress passed the Keres Act, which halted evictions until August. But the eviction moratorium instituted by the Carers Act only applied to certain kinds of properties, about a third of rental homes nationally.
And Yolanda wasn't really sure if it would help her.
I mean, I understood it. I read it, but I didn't know. Was it really a law that they had to follow? You not able to use a loophole? You know, if you don't know it's 100 percent factual. You just say, let me just kind of be proactive. I just didn't know if it was 100 percent real, you know?
And at the end of June, Yolanda came home and saw something posted on her front door.
Well, that woman came on one Friday evening and it was an envelope on the door that contained eviction papers.
What was it like to see that there? It was embarrassing for Mulyadi, I was angry, I was crying. I had so many mixed emotions. The tears were with me and. You know, I had to let them in the house and I had to tell them I the back of the car and just go sit in the car because the across was hurtful, because I try to internalize it all. But they can tell I wasn't being 100 percent honest.
Why don't you know, we go back where to go? But I think those were scared.
The eviction warrant on her door said that she owed nearly four thousand dollars in rent plus three hundred dollars in late fees. It said that she had to formally respond to the warrant online within 25 days from the day she got the notice. And if she didn't answer by then, marshals could initiate proceedings to force her out of her home at any time.
And then what did you do? How did you respond to that? On the last day, when the answer was doing, when I'm telling you my back was against the law, I finally got my oldest was. But we have to go and we have to submit this answer. You and I can't just go down without a fight. You know, I do think I have always thought you were sort of like my last resort is to fight this in court.
Right. To fight it in court and to also, you know, get a little bit more time to try to find my family and ask them where to go, because I said, I know the court is back, but I know when I will be there right away. But at least if I provide an answer, they cannot just put us out and it'll buy me some time. Right.
As she waited for the eviction case to wind its way through court, the amount she owed in rent and in late fees just kept growing.
I don't like the feeling of maybe we're one day closer to the home. I don't like that. And of course, I'm already at my spouse and there's something. That's what keeps me. And. And I was so, so, so close to you for talking to you. I want to thank you so much and I'll be in touch. All right. OK, bye bye.
Time is running out as the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire in just three weeks. Emergency eviction protections are due to end next week with millions of renters facing possible eviction.
In March, the government passed the Carers Act, which provided an eviction moratorium, but that is set to expire soon.
Pandemic unemployment benefits introduced by the Carers Act are going to expire at the end of this month unless Congress takes action and fast. London, yes. I wonder how is this a good sign? I'm sure this is a good time.
OK, so two months later, in the first week of October, I called Yolanda back to see how she was doing. What happened was that lawyers from Atlanta Legal Aid ended up taking Yolanda's case. They discovered that her building was covered under the CARE Act. That means the landlord wasn't legally allowed to file an eviction in June. And so after we originally spoke, the eviction case against her was dismissed. But the Kahrizak didn't get rid of the debt that Yolanda owed.
So I talked to you. End of July. What happens is the end of July. OK, so from the end of July, I have yet to hear from unemployment. I have not received the payment. We've reached out. They said I'm in queue to be with you because they've had an overwhelming amount of work, which I understand. Meanwhile, however, we're talking about May and October, and I still have yet to receive anything.
She told me that at the beginning of September, she was out of the house one day and her phone rang.
And so I think I was out meeting with clients, you know, just trying to get myself back on my feet. And I get a devastating call from my son, my mom. You need to get home right away. And so I'm scared and I'm like, are you OK? But I need you to come home. So now I got to come back home. So emotionally distraught because he's been served with legal papers after she filed another eviction. It was 30 days from being dismissed.
I believe it was a little bail.
So after the Kahrizak eviction moratorium expired in July and a few weeks after Yolanda's first eviction case was dismissed, Yolanda's landlord filed a second eviction.
I felt like a failure. I just I just I felt empty. I was like, I just I can't keep doing this.
Just two days after Yolanda's landlord filed the second eviction, the federal government stepped in again. This time it was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, that issued an order temporarily stopping evictions across the country. The CDC order protects most renters, including Yolanda, from being turned out of their homes until the end of this year, December 31st. But the order doesn't forgive debt and it doesn't get rid of the second eviction case against Yolanda because that case was filed between the two moratorium's.
And so Yolanda was worried about what might happen at the end of the year and her son was on edge to he's inside of building that.
It is kind of difficult because I don't know if he's having bad dreams or just what kind of journey. But, you know, he's waking up. He's meeting. Just constant reassurance and constant coffered, I can't be going like that, but they don't want to be away from the house because you see things that only come back when I go back to getting his stuff is going to be outside. Is it the light, his appetite has decreased to still have expired?
I'm just not happy, you know, I don't want to say somewhere. I don't want to say. He's having anxiety or virtual learning, and the teacher let me turn the camera off, because we had the mailman come with the package to be for the mailbox, his medicine, the stuff he has as much as most of his medicine was delivered to be for our little mailbox. The mailman, I rang the doorbell and I mean, this kid just flipped out on the computer.
Wow. You know, this teacher there, he or she said, who is that? You know, I think you scare well with the. What about your older son, is he still at home? Yes, he understands he gets in my myself with him is I need you to finish school, but he's trying to work because he feels like he needs to try to speak because I know the importance of a degree and I work so hard to graduate.
No, we graduate high school with honors. He refused to go back because I felt like he got to help and they recently learned that. No. He rather, you know, give up his family and I love it, but if I wanted to go to school. Yeah. As you're looking to December thirty, first, what are you thinking? We'll see. I was try to find somewhere cheaper if you never my thing is because you hurt my career, you hurt my rental history.
So by when I start applying for these places, it came up and then they called. You gave me a bad reference. So would you want me to do this with again this year? And I would be OK with this.
The thing is, an eviction filing will show up on your credit history even if it's been dismissed. And Yolanda suspected that that was hurting her chances of finding a new place to live.
I guess in the back of my mind, the worst case scenario, we have to go home. What do you mean going? Going home? Where is home? Well, Illinois, you know, got me and my family here. I mean, we'll be home with your family in Illinois. Are you have, you know, sort of landing pad at all? No. I mean, I just have to go along and figure it out. We'll probably have to split up because, you know, the amount one family member they can take from, you know, my parents retired on a fixed income and they live in places they don't support.
Long time, yes, so it probably does. And I will have to split up, but I would rather see a split up. Yeah. I thank you, because this is helping me just like I get it out of there, but I don't have all the time and I just I really appreciate you getting a little therapy today. Thank you. Take care and I'll have to. All right. I will. OK. All right. We'll be right back.
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My name is Frances Robles. I'm a national and foreign correspondent for The New York Times. When you read an investigation that I wrote, there's a lot of things that you don't see. I might have spent hours driving around in circles making sure I wasn't being tailed. So I don't give away the location of someone in hiding. I might have spent an entire day crisscrossing the county, knocking on a dozen people's doors, looking for exactly the source who will help me expose government corruption.
I might have read through 500 pages of documents looking for a single sentence, but that's what it takes to tell these stories. Right. And I'm proud to do it. If this kind of journalism is important to you, journalism that holds power to account, that gives voice to the voiceless, then you can support it by becoming a New York Times subscriber. Go to NY Times dot com subscribe. So, Matt, you've been writing about housing and evictions for a very long time now, and I wanted to try to understand how Yolanda's situation fits in with the bigger picture around the country.
And so how many renters find themselves in a situation like Yolanda's right now facing a potential eviction? At this moment?
There are millions of Yolanda's out there right now. The pandemic has caused wages to slow down, to disappear for a lot of people, but rent has never stopped throughout the pandemic. And so, you know, a lot of people find themselves in a really deep debt hole right now with their landlords. You know, the latest data from the census report that if you're in a home where someone has lost their job or lost wages and you're a renter, one in five of those homes are behind in rent.
It means that over seven million renters who have lost some income are behind in rent. So Yolanda's story is a story that's replicated in cities all across the country right now.
How does that compare to the numbers before the pandemic? So we were in an eviction crisis long before covid struck an average year in America. About three point seven million eviction cases were filed across the nation. And so you take that situation that's already at critical levels and you just kind of the economic collapse that we've seen, the pandemic. And you're in a really scary situation.
And what was going on to explain why there was an eviction crisis even before the pandemic?
So before the pandemic, the country was reeling from an affordable housing crisis. And there are three main causes of that crisis cause. Number one is incomes for many American families have been stagnant over the last 20 years. You know, the last time the federal minimum wage was raised, for example, was 11 years ago in 2009. And so for many Americans, you know, what they're making today is what they made 10 years ago, 15 years ago.
But and here's the second cause. Rents and other housing costs have soared. You know, rents have basically doubled in America over the last 20 years. And this is a story that's happened in the South and the Midwest and the coast. You know, everywhere in the country, it's getting more and more expensive to live. And then we might ask, and this is the third ingredient is, you know, wait wait a minute, what about help from the federal government?
And the answer is only about one in six eligible families who could receive assistance from the federal government in terms of public housing or a voucher that reduces their rent. Only about one in six of those families receive anything. And so the waiting list for public housing in some of our biggest cities now is counted in decades, not in years. So if I applied for public housing in New York City today or Washington, D.C., for example, I'd be a grandfather by the time my application came up for review.
I have two young kids, and just to be sure, I have those three factors straight. You're saying that as incomes have remained flat and rent has soared, the government has simultaneously not done very much to address those two competing realities?
That's exactly right. And so I think that, you know, that's led us to a place where most renting families below the poverty line are spending over 50 percent of their income on housing costs. And one in four of those families are spending 70 percent of their income just on rent and utilities.
So that kind of brings us back to Yolanda. And it's clear to me why so many people, including her, are struggling to pay their rent. But I want to better understand why they're facing eviction. And we tried to get in touch with Yolanda's landlord, but we didn't hear back. So I wonder, what is your understanding of why so many landlords are trying to evict their tenants?
I think that for many property owners, eviction has been the go to solution for when a tenant falls behind. You know, when we haven't had a serious investment by the federal government in housing, eviction is seen by more and more property owners as the only solution that they have. If a tenant falls behind and they evict them, that eviction doesn't solve their problem. Right? They don't get paid. But, you know, they might have a chance to fill the property with someone else.
And, you know, look, it's an incredibly difficult time for property owners right now. You know, they've experienced this giant loss of revenue. Most were excluded from aid to small businesses through the paycheck protection program. So if I was a florist or if I was a mechanic, I might have got a bailout from the federal government. But if I was a mom and pop landlord, I didn't receive anything like that. And so, you know, landlords are feeling the crunch, too.
I do think that the. The crisis affecting tenants in a crisis affecting property owners are not the same thing, though. And let me just kind of walk through that. You know, we have a national moratorium right now on eviction, but it's not like a get out of rent free card. You know, people still have to pay rent to stay in their homes. That's number one consideration. In other words, like, you know, a lot of landlords saying, OK, if my tenant doesn't pay the rent, I can't pay the bank and I might go into foreclosure.
And that is a reality for many property owners. But the rules governing foreclosures and the rules governing evictions are different. So in most cases, if you fall behind on your mortgage, your bank has to wait 120 days to start the eviction proceedings. But in many cities, you know, if you fall behind in your rent, you could be evicted in a matter of of weeks. And it's also different, losing a property and losing your home and being cast into homelessness, especially during a pandemic.
So what do we know about what the next couple of months are going to look like for renters who might be facing eviction? You've talked about the fact that historically the government has not been particularly invested in this issue. And is that what we're expecting as the situation gets worse in the pandemic continues?
I think there are a lot of questions left unanswered. So last week, the senators working on the bipartisan emergency covid Relief Act released a statement about what the stimulus bill might include for renters. There are two things that we need to pay attention to. First, the senator said that the relief bill will provide twenty five billion dollars in rent assistance payments that would go either to landlords or to tenants that were directly attack rental. The second thing that the senators said was that they will provide, quote, an eviction moratorium until the end of January twenty twenty one.
So the question is, what's that eviction moratorium going to look like? Is Yolanda going to be able to benefit from that moratorium or is that moratorium going to kind of leave her and the cold? And these are questions that we just simply don't have answers to yet.
Thank you so much, Matt. Thank you. Tyler is the CDC's temporary hold is not extended. 30 to 40 million Americans could lose their homes, but it's a Band-Aid.
It's not a solution because this is essentially a deferral of those rent payments for the next several months. They will still be come due. America will face a large scale eviction crisis unless something is passed soon as the eviction moratorium is set to expire on January 1st. Hello. Hi, Yolanda. Hello, how are you doing? All right, so you want to tell me what has happened since we talked in October? Well, I'm finished. I graduated.
I've finished my student teaching. Congratulations. Thank you. And tell me about how your family celebrated you getting the teaching certification and what happened. So I put out my cap and gown that I was walking through the house. I mean, the kids are really excited because, again, I mean, it was it was a milestone. So they were just real happy for me. Yeah. So I'm just now waiting to obtain a position, you know, a teaching position, and we're scheduled to go back on January 4th.
So hopefully in the next couple of weeks, you know, everything picks up with my employment. We did go to court in November, I believe their attorney wasn't prepared. He did not show up. So the judge said it over until the twenty first, which is Monday. So right now we're still in this litigation. I haven't heard anything from the landlord. If I were to stand still. And what are you thinking for when the moratorium expires?
Right now, I'm thinking that I just want to have a good holiday and then maybe I have to go based off the judge. And so I'm just I'm just in fact, I just have to keep breathing because I just don't know what's going to happen. And I just want the kids to have a good Christmas, take a day off of worrying and just enjoy, relax. I just I just I guess I just want all the worry and stop for one day and one day.
For the most part, I think we are just trying to suppress Manchego.
Oh, thank you so much. I want to thank you. On Thursday night, Democrats and Republicans were still debating whether the latest stimulus package should include 25 billion dollars in emergency rent relief and whether to extend the current moratorium on evictions past the end of the year. We'll be right back. This podcast is supported by Facebook and Facebook. We're taking action to keep our communities safe. We've tripled our safety and security teams, built new privacy tools and invested billions to keep our platform safe.
What's next? We support updated Internet regulations that set clear rules for addressing today's toughest challenges. Learn more at about FT.com slash regulations. Here's what else you need to know today. The coronavirus is ravaging California, leaving just three percent of the state's ICU beds available as of Thursday in Los Angeles County. Officials say that on average, two people are dying every hour and one out of every 80 people are now thought to be infected with the virus.
And a Times investigation has raised doubts about the account of the central character in Califate at Times audio series published in 2018. The man who called himself Abu Whosever claimed that he had carried out brutal acts, including murder as a member of ISIS in Syria. But since the series aired, the Canadian government has charged him with lying about his experience. The findings of the Times investigation are described by executive editor Dean Baquet in an update to the series released this morning.
Today's episode was produced by Stella Tan and Eric Krupke. It was edited by Mike Benowa and Lisa Tobin and engineered by Chris Wood. Special thanks to Matthew Goldstein and Lisa Duran on.
That's it for The Daily, I'm Michael Barbaro. See you on Monday. This podcast is supported by Facebook and Facebook. We're taking action to keep our communities safe. We've tripled our safety and security teams, built new privacy tools and invested billions to keep our platform safe. What's next? We support updated Internet regulations that set clear rules for addressing today's toughest challenges. Learn more at about DOT FBI dotcom slash regulations.