160,000 Georgians could be at risk of eviction if current ban expires at end of month

Time is running out for Congress to help struggling Americans, with current COVID-19 relief measures set to expire Dec. 31. That includes a ban on evictions.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spoke to people and organizations who are worried about a surge of evictions next month.

“It’s extremely hard,” mother Valencia Gasper said.

In September, Gasper was one of 11 people evicted from the Efficiency Lodge in DeKalb County. The mother of three said it was for non payment as she struggled to find work during the pandemic.

“You have to sit down with your kids while they go to school because you have to do the login, and you have to sit there with them day in and day out. And you’re like, man, I know I need to go to work,” Gasper said.

The eviction happened during the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on evictions and DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson said he’s considering legal action.

Gasper has a temporary home now thanks to community organizations stepping up.

But that federal moratorium is expiring at the end of December, meaning up to 160,000 Georgians could be at risk of eviction.

“I don’t like this, and I don’t like this feeling,” Gasper said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus Pandemic in Georgia]

The global consulting firm Stout estimates there is anywhere between $300-680 million in unpaid rent just in Georgia. Nationwide, that number is up to an estimated $24 billion.

Erin Willoughby with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society said the end of a moratorium could trigger an eviction crisis.

“I think we’re going to see a huge spike in evictions once the CDC moratorium expires. There are a lot of cases that are in the court system right now that are on hold because of the CDC moratorium,” Willoughby said.

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People who aren’t protected by the eviction ban are landlords.

“You have people landlords, who may not be able to cover the mortgage on the rental home, and they lose it due to foreclosure,” attorney Mike Dunham told Johnson.

Dunham said he is telling landlords who want to evict that they can file a case, but they should expect delays.

“Do your dead level best to work something out with the tenant. I think that’s probably going to ultimately be the fastest way to resolve, you know, getting the tenant out,” he said.

Shakeema Friend runs a non profit called Miya Incorporated and helps displaced families. She said it’s common for families to have nowhere to go after an eviction and is worried about the moratorium expiring.

“That scares me,” Friend said. “That is definitely something that I know my own organization is going to be overwhelmed with.”

Laquana Alexander and the Community Boutique have been helping families evicted from the Efficiency Lodge. Alexander said she was once homeless and connects with people going through unexpected setbacks.

“I can meet them where they’re at, but I got to take them where I’m going because I know in my situation,” she said. “I was homeless, but my spirit wasn’t homeless.”

Alexander helped Gasper find a new temporary home and there’s hope other families will find help too.

“It was looking bad, but you just never know what the Lord has in his plans,” Gasper said.

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