Housing advocates are asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to extend the moratorium on evictions. The moratorium was originally put in place in March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, it has been extended four times via executive order. It is now set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on July 16.
Wanda Upshaw is a Detroit renter. She works for a renal dialysis company and her hours were reduced to part time after the pandemic hit, in order for the company to retain employees.
“I do quite a bit there, I do everything that patients need for assistance, especially during this time.”
Upshaw got a letter from United Community Housing Coalition, a nonprofit in Detroit, telling her that she could apply for rental assistance, which she did.
“While applying for it, they requested I go to DHS [Department of Human Services for the city of Detroit] and apply for rental assistance, but the only way that they could assist me is if I got a denial. I did, I got a denial, I gave them my claim letter.”
She says the process took about 45 days in total, during which time, she had already started getting eviction notices. UCHC was able to provide her with rental assistance, but only if she was able to pay a portion as well. She says she was able to get help negotiating with her landlord from UCHC, but she still has rearages she has to pay.
“Even though I got the help, I’m still paying a portion, you know, from my balance. I just think the moratorium is sorely needed, because the next day people could be put out of their homes, and where are they going to go?”
Upshaw says that the assistance that people get isn’t enough.
“We’re about to fall into a second wave, if not already into the second wave of COVID and people need help out here. A lot of people, I mean, I know they’re getting unemployment and all that but it’s not enough.”
Jim Schaafsma is a housing attorney for the Michigan Poverty Law Program. He says that the state government has done good things with its implementation of the moratorium and the creation of an eviction diversion program, but says it’s not enough.
“These new eviction diversion programs that are being developed in places around the state where they haven’t been in place already, they need more time to take root, and get working effectively, and they’ll have a lot of growing pains.”
Schaafsma says that the $50 million set aside by the state for eviction diversion programs is a great start, but says estimates show that Michigan would need $250 million per month in rental assistance.
Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, says there is not yet an update on whether the moratorium will be extended this week. She says that Michiganders can apply for rental assistance under the Eviction Diversion Program beginning this Thursday, July 16.