Letter to the Editor | Americans face imminent eviction epidemic
September 26, 2020
More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic the United States has suffered more death, unemployment and social unrest than any other major industrial power. Despite these crises, the economic and political classes have failed to address the Sword of Damocles dangling over the country: 40 million evictions.
In the ensuing economic chaos, poor Americans have had to face the brunt of wages and hours cuts. This working class was stressed going into the crisis, with one in four tenants spending more than 50% of their income on rent. A decentralized response by local and state officials followed. This left precarious tenants to the mercy of their government officials — of whom only some extended eviction moratoriums.
Attempting to resolve the resulting chaos, the Center for Disease Control stepped in on Sept. 4 to impose a uniform eviction moratorium on the country. Landlords, the remnant feudal class, sued the CDC in response. This is despite the fact that the CDC avoided rent forgiveness and allows landlords to raise rents, shut off utilities or find other evictable infractions as means to force out their tenants.
Last year, 1.5 million Americans were evicted. Compare this to France, where evictions are prohibited during “la trêve hivernale” — the five month long winter truce — and come in at only 15,000 annually: a stunning 100:1 ratio. Only after the cold has passed can the police move in to throw out the pensioners, sick and unemployed onto the streets.
Not in the United States — on Jan. 1, the bill will come due for tens of millions of Americans. What will happen then? Are we to expect the police, in a year of extreme discontent, to move in and evict millions of people? Faced with this the United States has two options: Provide direct economic relief or kick the can further down the road.
Ethan is a senior in LAS.