News & Politics

Next Big Crisis: Racist Evictions of Black People

FILE- This July 2, 2008, file photo shows a foreclosed home in Sacramento, Calif. As home values plummeted after the housing bubble burst in 2007, many borrowers with exotic types of loans were stuck, unable to refinance as lenders began to tighten their lending criteria. That set the stage for cascading mortgage defaults. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

The numbers are staggering — and frightening. On July 24, the moratorium on rental evictions will expire. At that point, 26 million apartment dwellers will be at risk of losing a place to live. That number is an estimate of renters who will be unable to come up with a rent payment by September.

At least 44 percent of blacks who rent say they are unsure if they can make the next payment. Needless to say, it’s a combustible situation.

“Think about it: People are still unemployed. If they’re being evicted, they’re going to be out in the streets anyway,” said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “If what you want is to get people back to work and not have people out in the streets protesting, then maybe you don’t want to kick them out of their houses.”

Sounds like a threat. It is. The problem is that most landlords are not rich. They are middle-class or upper-middle-class. But they won’t be for long if they can’t fill their rental units with paying customers.

Landlords get a bad rap, of course, and some of them deserve it. But the fact is, during the lockdown, landlords carried hundreds of thousands of renters across the country. Many of them forgave some of the rent.

But it won’t be enough. Building owners and managers will have to start evicting people so they can open a unit up to someone who can pay. There is no animus or racism involved in evictions. It’s dollars and cents. Unfortunately, that simple equation escapes the simple-minded.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided it was best to throw a little gasoline on the fire.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told housing advocates on a call last week that the furor over Floyd’s death had brought new urgency to discussions of the racial disparities endemic in American life.

“One knee to the neck just explode[d] a tinderbox of other injustices that we must address, and one of them is housing,” Pelosi said. “Housing security is a matter of justice, as structural racism puts communities of color unfairly at risk of being rent-burdened or homeless.”

So making people pay rent is a “knee on the neck”? Oh, Nancy. Such colorful metaphors.

There is logic to trying to keep tens of millions of people from being thrown into the street after being evicted. But do you approach the problem from the landlord’s point of view or the tenant’s? Someone, somewhere, somehow is going to have to pay the rent. And it smells like another taxpayer bailout is on the way.

Housing advocates warn that landlords around the country are already preparing eviction proceedings to file the moment they’re allowed to proceed, even as more than 20 million Americans — including more than 1 in 6 black workers — remain out of work.

“Unless Congress intervenes soon, the coming tsunami of evictions and homelessness will disproportionately harm black and brown people,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Of course, this isn’t about George Floyd or police reform. This is about a massive transfer of wealth from the productive to the non-productive. Will this make us more “equal”? Will “racial disparities” be narrowed if we use outcomes that reveal inequality as evidence of racism?

This is only the beginning. As long as this hysteria continues, the takers will keep taking and the rest of us will be forced to give.

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