Using Coronavirus Relief Fund to Prevent Evictions

Note to Members of the Housing Task Force from Mike O’Sullivan

During the 5/11 City Council meeting, Mr. Jones indicated that $20MM of the $154.5MM Coronavirus Relief Fund would be entrusted to the Housing Task Force. On behalf of OneMECK, I am writing to suggest that a significant portion of that money be allocated to eviction prevention.

The Chief Justice’s moratorium on eviction trials will expire on May 31.  There are already 1800+ eviction complaints pending for trial, and the small courtrooms cannot safely accommodate all of the potential litigants.  While many tenants remain unemployed and unable to pay rent and other necessities, landlords are feeling their own economic pressures to collect rent or evict their residents.  The best relief for this crisis is to assist the needy tenants immediately with rent and avoid attorney fees and court costs.  There is no more urgent need in our community.  Our homeless shelters are already overflowing.

City Council and the philanthropic community have already begun working on this problem, with the City allocating CDBG/ESG funding and United Way/Foundation for the Carolinas awarding grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund.

However, given the extent of this problem, the currently available funding will fall far short of the need. That is why it is critical that the Housing Task Force immediately allocates a portion of the $20MM from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to fill this gap. This stop-gap funding would be critical lifeline to those families experiencing temporary unemployment and can’t pay rent.  It will prevent a surge in evictions and homelessness. For owners, it could save court costs for evictions of $126 and litigation charges of $350 + per case—many thousands of dollars.  And, through Crisis Assistance Ministry, there is already a “tried and true” mechanism for ensuring these funds get immediately to those who need them.