‘Eviction tsunami:’ Housing advocates fear eviction surge after Va. pandemic protections end June 30

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:07 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:54 PM EDT

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The last of Virginia’s pandemic eviction protections will expire on June 30, as rent and housing costs are soaring. Housing advocates fear this could lead to a spike in evictions in less than three months since landlords and property managers will have fewer barriers in filing eviction notices and taking people to court for non-payment.

“We have been talking about the coming eviction tsunami for really almost the entire two years of the pandemic,” said Marty Webreit, director of litigation for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.

The CDC’s federal eviction moratorium ended in the summer of 2021. However, Virginia still has some extended protections until the end of this coming June. For example, a major change will be that landlords will no longer be required to apply for the Virginia Rent Relief Program on behalf of their tenants who can’t make payments.

Also, property managers of four units or more will no longer have to offer tenants some payment plan if they’re behind.

The good news is that NBC12 confirmed there’s still $275 million in funding left in the RRP. There’s also another $213 million still available in the Virginia Mortgage Relief Program. You can apply for this funding on your own and still get approved.

“It’s for anyone who’s impacted by the pandemic, whether they had a loss of income or an increase in expenses. But basically, that includes everybody,” said Wegbreit, who says that increased energy costs from simply staying home more during the pandemic could be considered a financial impact.

You must meet eligibility requirements for both Virginia’s rent and mortgage relief programs. That funding could be needed as much now as during the height of the pandemic. Rent has gone up 21 percent in the greater Richmond area compared to last year. New home prices are also skyrocketing nationwide at nearly 19 percent.

Wegbreit adds that Richmond’s historical lack of affordable housing exacerbates the eviction problem in our area.

“One out of every four people who qualify for assisted housing, only one out of four gets it,” he said.

But the $691 million in federal and state assistance doled out during the pandemic in Virginia, along with added pandemic eviction protection laws, has helped keep people in their homes.

The latest data from the RVA Eviction Lab at VCU shows how evictions actually fell during the pandemic compared to 2019.

RVA Eviction Lab at VCU(RVA Eviction Lab at VCU)

But after June 30, this could change. According to the Legal Aid Justice Center, in just the next two months, Richmond courts have 731 eviction hearings scheduled (unlawful detainer hearings). That’s the most in the state. Chesterfield has 369 hearings, and Henrico has 503 on the docket.

In Richmond city, Mayor Levar Stoney proposed increasing the city’s eviction diversion program funding to $727,000, in the latest budget. Right now, the program is depleted, according to officials with HOME which runs the initiative. The effort began in September of 2019, and has helped at least 1,197 Richmonders avoid eviction.

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