New Orleans faces eviction crisis amidst COVID-19

Lauren Lehmann, Staff Reporter

Daisy Rymer

Eviction hearings for New Orleanians that were previously stalled due to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium are set to begin on Oct. 5. This is despite the CDC’s effort to stop all evictions due to non-payment of rent meant to continue through the end of the year. The legal legitimacy of the CDC’s eviction moratorium, however, has been called into question, and the level to which it is enforced varies from judge to judge.

The CDC’s intention in issuing the residential eviction moratorium was to ensure renters were not out of a home during a pandemic, when they are encouraged to stay home and quarantine. 

“This is a public-health emergency, and any one persons health is only as good as everybody’s health, because we all rely on the same [health care] system,” Maxwell Ciardullo, policy director for the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center said in a nola.com article. “And stable housing is one of the best defenses we have.”

In response to the CDC’s moratorium, New Orleans put a pause on all eviction hearings starting Sept. 4. The CDC states that tenants who cannot pay their rent should fill out a form to declare their inability to pay and give the statement to their landlord. This declaration must include proof that they have suffered financially due to the coronavirus pandemic and cannot afford their rent. Tenants must also provide proof that they gave the form to their landlord at some point before the eviction hearing.

If a landlord receives this declaration and continues to take legal action to evict or remove a tenant from the property, they can be subject to fines or jail time. New Orleans courts have announced, however, that the completion of the declaration does not guarantee that tenants are safe from eviction. Regardless of whether the form has been completed, all eviction hearings will be rescheduled for after Oct. 5.

In New Orleans there are a large number of renters. The most recent information collected on residential housing in Orleans Parish found that about 82,800 or 53.6% of homes are occupied by renters. Many are struggling to pay rent because of the globally stagnant tourism industry. Tourism alone accounts for about 66,000 jobs in New Orleans. 

New Orleans courts have not released numbers on how many eviction hearings are now being scheduled for October. After the federally enforced residential eviction moratorium in the CARES Act expired on July 24, there was a considerable increase in eviction filings. The CARES Act was an emergency effort to provide relief during the coronavirus pandemic through stimulus checks. It also included a 120-day federal moratorium on evictions for renters in federally backed, low income housing. 

With hurricane season still looming over the city during an ongoing pandemic, the impending eviction of families threatens to bring about a housing crisis in New Orleans.