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Advocates warn an eviction crisis is looming

A vacant home surrounded by a chain link fence, carrying a "bank owned" sign.
Reed Saxon
A vacant home surrounded by a chain link fence, carrying a "bank owned" sign.

Before the pandemic, Virginia had one of the highest rates for evictions in the country. Now, some are concerned about a coming crisis.

In the next few weeks, money to help renters struggling to make ends meet will dry up. And requirements for landlords to give renters more time to make payments or to notify renters about aid programs; all of that will come to an end. That's why Christie Marra at the Virginia Poverty Law Center says she's worried about a tsunami of evictions.

"We have a history of evicting tens of thousands of families a year prior to the pandemic, and we look poised to go back and repeat that history," Marra says. "So we're not running around saying, 'The sky is falling. The sky is falling.' The sky fell before, and we're pretty sure it's going to fall again because we're taking away the supports."

Since the earliest days of the pandemic, she says, those supports have worked to keep people in their homes and prevent a wave of evictions. All that support will stop this summer.

"We're going to see a lot of people in crisis," warns Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

"We will see that in our congregations, and we'll have to try to figure out what to do. We're going to see more people in shelters. This is a crisis that we know is coming and could be averted. We could stop this."

Lawmakers are still negotiating the state budget, and she says now would be a great time to add a child tax credit or to invest in subsidies for low-income households to help pay the rent.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.