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Non-profit housing leaders put eviction blame on renters, not on Landlords & Property Management Companies

September 21, 2020

Last week, the business news source, MiBiz, posted an article headlined, Well-intentioned’ eviction moratoriums will likely cause homelessness bottleneck, nonprofit leaders say

The article briefly discusses the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) call for a halt to housing evictions until the end of the year. The CDC has called for the halt to housing evictions as a means to reduce or minimize the spread of COVID 19. 

However, the bulk of the article is based on the responses to this announcement from three are housing assistance organizations; Well House, Mel Trotter Ministries and Degage Ministries. Here is a sample of what each of them had to say:

John Glover – Well House: Eviction moratoriums issued throughout the pandemic have been “well-intentioned,” but they let people get behind on their rent who may already struggle with financial discipline.

Dennis Van Kampen – Mel Trotter Ministries: The rent that they haven’t paid isn’t going away, it’s just accruing, and most people will not be able to have several months of rent in their savings account. They should also start thinking about looking for a place that charges less in rent.

Most landlords we work with want to keep their properties full and people renting them. Now they have the challenge of not having income coming in, so they can’t pay their bills but they also don’t want to evict people.

Marge Palmerlee – Degage Ministries: During a stressful time like this, anxieties rise, but we’re trying to always assure people we’ll be here to walk alongside them.”

What is instructive about the comments from these non-profit housing groups is the fact that they are critical of the CDC’s anti-eviction position, they are empathetic to landlords, and they place blame with tenants and their behavior.

Such comments are in stark contrast to what the housing justice movement is taking, which not only centers the lived experience of tenants, but to also provide a substantial critique of landlords, property management companies and the system that exploits tenants all across the country.

What groups across Michigan, as well as the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union, are taking can be summed up by the following information they have been sharing with tenants, since the CDC’s announcement.

1) This ban only protects tenants from being evicted for non-payment of rent.

2) Landlords can evict tenants who they believe ‘pose harm to the rental unit or a physical threat to others’, or tenants conducting illegal activity; Therefore,

3) This ban is another demonstration of collusion between property owners and law enforcement against tenants.

4) Local courts may decide to continue accepting filings and holding eviction hearings throughout the ban, so long as landlords do not remove tenants from their units until after Dec. 31st.

5) The ban ends on January 1st, in the middle of winter.

6) The ban is not accompanied by any further financial aid to assist people who have lost income as a result of COVID-19.

7) We are moving into the colder months, and tenants will have to choose between paying some or all of their rent and keeping their heat on.

IF YOU HAVE AN EVICTION HEARING SCHEDULED, YOU SHOULD STILL ATTEND AND FIGHT YOUR EVICTION SO IT DOESN’T CATCH UP WITH YOU IN JANUARY.

We understand that the non-profit housing groups are concerned about what will happen come January, when the eviction moratorium ends. However, instead of making demeaning comments about those who are facing housing insecurity, these groups should be acting in solidarity with people facing eviction or at least direct them to groups like the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union, which centers the lived experience of tenants, since it is primarily made up of those who are tenants.

Check out the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union, by going to their Facebook page and find out how tenants can support each other and build the kind of political power necessary to challenge the exploitative practices of landlords and property management companies. 

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