Potential housing crisis looms as states lift eviction freezes

(CNN) - As states reopen, freezes on rent and evictions are beginning to expire, and people will be faced with repaying months of back rent.

As states reopen, freezes on rent and evictions are starting to expire, leaving people faced with repaying months of back rent while still dealing with the economic effects of the coronavirus. (Source: CNN)

Kianah Ashley is being evicted, and a nightmare is unfolding for her and her 5-year-old son Nazir.

"That's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, because not knowing where you're going to rest your head at for the next day - that's not good," she said.

Up to 23 million Americans are at risk of eviction by the end of September. It's a housing crisis in the making.

"There's not really many options out there for us when it comes to trying to find a place during this pandemic," Ashley said.

Renters in 42 states have been protected under eviction moratoriums, postponing rent payments as the economy stutters due to COVID-19.

But 40% of those moratoriums have lifted, and more than 45 million Americans are still without a job.

"The United States can expect an avalanche of evictions that will impact the entire community and have a cascade of additional losses, everything from financial well-being to health to housing opportunities across the country," said Emily Benfer, director of the Health Justice Advocacy Clinic at Columbia Law School.

Ashley has a Section 8 voucher, making her search for affordable housing more difficult.

She's one of 50 million people who live in rentals in the U.S. experiencing job or income loss because of the pandemic, with people of color taking the brunt of it.

"Black households are more than twice as likely to evicted as white households, so it's significant impact that we're going to have here," Benfer said.

That could lead to record homelessness. The Coalition for the Homeless in New York says its mobile soup kitchens have seen a 100% increase in need.

"We've never seen anything like this," said Dave Giffen, the coalition's executive director. "And again, we know that this isn't the end. It's not even the middle. This is only the beginning of the crisis to come."

The HEROES Act, passed by the House but stalled in the Senate, would provide $100 billion in rental relief, including a national moratorium on evictions. That would keep people like Ashley out of shelters.

She's been there before with her son and doesn't want to have to go back.

"No child deserves to have to go through an experience like that," she said. "That's a very big fear of mine, because just going through the process of a loophole, of being denied and not knowing where you're going, it's not a good feeling."

In order to help people stay in their homes, states like Iowa and New York are providing rent relief bills. This is funding for people who can't pay rent.

In New York, the bill calls for $100 million, but that's only going to cover about 50,000 renters.

That's the same amount of evictions expected Monday when the eviction moratorium lifts.

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