Virginia Beach, Virginia (AP) – They did not have to appear before a judge when the four people facing deportations arrived at Virginia Beach court in early August.
Instead, a lawyer representing the landlord told them their housing issues had been resolved: every tenant had caught up on their rent or was eligible for Virginia’s $ 1 billion rent assistance program.
“Most of the time, landlords and tenants work together to pay the rent,” attorney Michael Hips said.
This scene did not conform to the image of the state, which until a few years ago was considered to be the shame of its citizens due to its incredible deportation rate. As of 2018, five cities in Virginia ranked in the top 10 national reports from the Princeton University foreclosure lab.
Three years later, Virginia is offering enhanced protection and support to tenants whose lives have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The state has even become a national leader in distributing federal rent aid dollars as peasant evictions decline.
This is due to the obvious highlighting of the Princeton data. From The New York Times. Unwanted propaganda has put lawmakers, homeowners and homeowner groups on the road that began long before the virus spread.
Democrat Masha Price, a Newport News Democrat ranked fourth in the country for peasant eviction, said:
“I don’t mean to say the conversation started then, but it certainly helped amplify the voices of those who said it was a job,” said Price, who drafted the law. evictions. “Everyone knew something had to be done.
Lawmakers have focused on possible solutions, many of which came to fruition during the pandemic.
For example, the state temporarily requires landlords to give them 14 days instead of 5 days to pay the overdue rent before asking for the eviction of the peasants. Overtime is very important for people who are paid every two weeks, according to advocates. Some legislators want this provision to be permanent.
Virginia was also one of the first states to create a statewide rent relief program using federal coronavirus bailouts.
From January through May, Virginia distributed more dollars than any other state in the first round of its emergency rental assistance program, according to statistics from the US Treasury. At the end of June, Virginia was ranked second behind Texas.
According to the office of US Senator Tim Kaine, Virginia also distributed a higher percentage of these ERA funds (about 43%) than any other state.
By the end of July, Virginia had spent more than $ 335 million in rent assistance funds and supported more than 51,000 households, according to state statistics.
Christine Mara, director of housing advocacy at the Virginia Center for Policy Law, said behind most of this was a state requirement for landlords to talk to tenants about money and request it on their behalf. name. ..
“He mostly continued to welcome tenants,” said Mara.
The mission expired on June 30. But it’s Resurrection last week. Virginia is also funding a campaign to educate tenants about their money and help them apply for it.
Norfolk personal care assistant Taneka Callaway was one of the people who received help.
Due to the pandemic, she lost the job of visiting clients. Her daughter also suffered from a brain tumor, but her father had COVID-19.
“They emailed me saying they had been approved for $ 10,000 to cover the month of February at the end of the lease,” Callaway told The Associated Press in late June.
Tiara Burton said the state relief program is helping her as well.
Burton works as a customer service agent for a health insurance company. She lost her second job as a nanny in a pandemic, was involved in an accident and started falling behind on her rent.
Burton appeared at an Aug. 2 hearing in Virginia Beach for fear of eviction, but the owner’s attorney only told him that his help was approved.
Virginia’s efforts, combined with the federal moratorium on evictions, have helped reduce evictions, advocates for the house say.
In the first quarter of 2021, declarations of peasant evictions were 22% of pre-pandemic levels. according to Visit RVA Eviction Lab, Virginia Commonwealth University.
The same was true for the second quarter submissions. But as more data arrives, it is expected to increase, indicating an “increased risk of eviction” for thousands of households, Lab said.
According to Mara of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the landlord may have expected tenant protection to expire as the number of COVID-19 cases declined in the spring.
However, Patrick McCloud, CEO of the Virginia Apartment Management Association, cited other possible reasons. For example, he said some tenants refused to work with the landlord to ask for help.
McCloud disagreed with Princeton’s report, saying it was not accurate because he was counting court orders rather than real peasants. But he agrees that it made a difference.
He admits that Virginia’s rent relief program puts a lot of rent on the house. And he said the industry was in favor of keeping it after the federal bailout fund disappeared.
But despite all of these efforts, Virginia still lags many other states in tenant protection, said Eric Dunn, proceedings manager for the National Housing Law project.
For example, he said Washington requires the owner to have a good reason to fire someone. And that person has the right to a lawyer.
“They’re like being in the middle of the pack right now,” Dan said of Virginia.
Kathryn Howell, co-director of the RVA Eviction Lab, said the real challenges are yet to come. This includes tackling more structural issues such as affordable housing and inequalities. For example, black women are disproportionately deported.
“The hanging fruit is what we did,” Howell said. “It’s a step in the right direction. The next step is more difficult.
Source Link Shame Led Virginia on the Path to Stronger Tenant Protection | At national scale