The end of Connecticut’s eviction moratorium brings difficulty to renters
Connecticut’s eviction moratorium, put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, has ended. What does that mean for families who are still struggling with housing insecurity?
WSHU’s Ebong Udoma spoke with CT Mirror’s Ginny Monk to discuss her series of articles on eviction in Connecticut as part of the collaborative podcast Long Story Short.
WSHU: So tell us, what exactly is happening with evictions in Connecticut right now?
GM: So recently in Connecticut and nationwide, sort of during the pandemic, the number of eviction filings dropped to some sort of record lows because of various protections that were in place both at a state and federal level. As those have gone away, evictions have surged. So Connecticut is right now on track to see the highest number of eviction filings in one year since 2017, which is the earliest year for which we have data available. And we know a few things through various research about evictions, one being that people of color are more affected by eviction and another being that women are more affected by eviction. And the third being that children are more at risk of eviction as well.
WSHU: You actually did a profile of a child named Dexter Menyfield, could you just tell us a little bit about Dexter and his mother?
GM: Sure. So Dexter is 15. He loves theater, and he's a very funny, happy kid. He and his mom were evicted a few months ago from their home in West Haven. And sort of since then, there's been a lot of instability in their lives. He missed the first few weeks of school because they truly weren't sure where they're going to be when he got out of school for the afternoon. They looked at staying at shelters, they stayed at hotels for several weeks. And now his mother is staying at a shelter and Dexter stays with her occasionally, typically on weekends, but stays with his grandmother most of the time.
WSHU: Now, this was predictable. And the state tried to do something. We had a federal moratorium as well as the state moratorium. And we also had assistance in paying rents. What happened with Dexter’s family?
GM: Yeah, so, the assistance sort of dried up, and even some of the families who did receive assistance sort of found themselves falling behind. Again, that's sort of what happened with Dexter's family, but they were evicted for a lapse of time. So she had had some conflicts with the landlord prior to their eviction. And then when the lease expired, they were evicted.
WSHU: Now, the moratorium ended earlier this year?
GM: The state moratorium ended in 2021, as did the federal moratorium. When the state moratorium ended, it was replaced with certain protections, including that folks could have longer to leave the apartment after an eviction and that landlords had to have a UniteCT case number showing that they had at least applied for assistance in order to file an eviction for non-payment of rent, which is the most common type of eviction.
WSHU: And you mentioned a program that was meant to give rental assistance, UniteCT. However, many landlords have complained that that's been slow, the money has been slow to come in. And with inflation and other expenses going up, they haven't been able to keep up with that. Could you just explain a little bit about that?
GM: Sure. So a couple of things are at play here. One being that as it got started, the program was a little bit slow to start rolling money out, because as the director had put it to me once, they were trying to fly the plane while they were trying to put it together. So they were trying to get the program together and receiving applications. So that was at the start of the program. And still money was sort of slow to get to landlords, there was a lot of paperwork to be done, applications to be reviewed, that kind of thing. And then as the program sort of started to run low on funds, it stopped taking applications altogether. So overall, there was a lot of frustration, both for tenants and landlords in just how long the money took to get to them. But I will say it did help thousands of people.
WSHU: I also see that you say that the state has now added some more money to that, just a couple of months ago. How's that gonna help out? And let's get back to Dexter's family. All this stuff we're talking about, how does it play out on the ground?
GM: Yeah, so the additional money that the state received is interesting. There's a few states that have gotten sort of reallocated funds from other states that were very slow to spend their money. So for example, Arkansas, my home state, was one of the ones that did not spend all of their funds and had money reallocated to states that were quicker to get their programs set up like Connecticut got additional funds. What Connecticut has decided to do was to roll its extra federal money in with the rent bank program to sort of create something that housing mediators in court can say, 'okay, what if you're able to receive this money through this program, then can they stay in their apartment?'
WSHU: And we're talking about about $11 million or so.
WSHU: How much can this help the rent situation that we have right now?
GM: Right. So it certainly will help but there are thousands more people who need assistance. That was the most consistent thing I heard from renters, both who were a part of the story and plenty who were not, that they need rental assistance, that they can't catch up. And then you wanted to get back to Dexter's family as well. So the issue that they are having is that, as I said, they're experiencing homelessness right now, mom's in a shelter. And it's actually fairly common. So they now have an eviction on their record, which makes it very, very hard for them to find a new apartment. Landlords don't want to rent to someone with a history of eviction. And the rental market is so tight right now that they can sort of have the luxury of having higher standards. So one of the landlords I spoke to, for the first article sort of talked about how there's so much demand for apartments right now, and that it's taking longer to evict tenants in many cases, so he's less likely to take a chance on a tenant who's had an eviction.
WSHU: And also, studies show that most evictions are in urban areas or urban centers, why so?
GM: So a couple of things, there tends to be higher concentrations of poverty in cities. And also, that's where the larger demographic centers of people of color are. And as I mentioned, at the start, people of color are more likely to face eviction.
WSHU: And children are paying the price?
GM: Correct. The other thing in Connecticut is that there's just more apartments in the city. So there's plenty of sort of rural or suburban towns where there are just not a lot of apartments.
WSHU: So more rental properties in cities, more people in cities are affected by this. As far as children are concerned, what is to help them out in the situation?
GM: Yeah, so it's really tough. There are a couple of laws and programs. One of them I wrote about today being the McKinney-Vento Act, which is a federal law that guarantees certain rights to students experiencing homelessness. So they have the right to stay in their school district, for example, even if they're experiencing homelessness and they have to go to a shelter in a different city. They're guaranteed transportation to their old school district so that that's not disrupted. So that's one example of something that's out there.
WSHU: So the bottom line is that it's going to get worse before it gets better.
GM: That is the sense I got from talking with folks. And it's a tough time of year as well to be anyone experiencing housing instability, but I think particularly a child experiencing housing instability. It's cold, it's Christmas time, you're excited about gifts, and your parents are worried about where you're going to sleep the next night.