Milwaukee Housing Advocates Say Rental Aid is Not Enough to Fix Housing Crisis

Milwaukee, WI – In late August, the Supreme Court put an end to the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium, putting hundreds of thousands of tenants at risk of losing their homes. All this while the federal government is struggling to bring billions of dollars in aid to tenants unable to make rental payments due to the pandemic.

About $5.1 billion of the $46.5 billion in aid had been paid out by the end of July, according to the New York Times.  

A few weeks before, the CDC issued a temporary order stopping evictions in counties with high levels of community transmission.

At the time, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh made it clear that the moratorium would not hold up. 

“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” Kavanaugh wrote.  

“President Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions—from cities and states to local courts, landlords, Cabinet agencies—to urgently act to prevent evictions,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on August 26. 

In Milwaukee, grassroots organization Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union (MATU) is helping tenants know their rights and assisting them in implementing that knowledge. 

“While we [at MATU] are relieved that the eviction moratorium was renewed once again, its indefinite extension is not a solution in of itself,” organizer Bobby Penner said. “The politicians of the primarily Democratic party are simply kicking the can down the road.” 

Penner says the solution to the housing crisis should be swift. 

“With massive backlogs of unpaid rent that could not possibly be paid under the current material conditions, what is necessary is the cancellation of rent entirely,” Penner said. 

There have been a few battle cries pleading landlords to forgo rent during the pandemic. 

“All the back rent should be paid to the landlords by the federal government and all mortgages should be canceled as well for homeowners and small property landlords,” Penner continued. “Right now, tenants are faced with major uncertainty and are under attack from landlords that don’t care if they make people homeless.” 

The Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin told its landlord members to work with their tenants. 

A news release from the association’s leaders said, “It remains in the owners’ and renters’ best interest to work together to get the Emergency Rental Assistance funding. The only reason to evict for nonpayment at this time is if the renter refuses to apply for ERAP or does not qualify due to no loss of income.”

The National Low Income Housing Coalition states: “The Biden administration must immediately take every possible action to protect renters. HUD should implement an eviction moratorium for renters living in all federally assisted properties and FHFA should consider a moratorium for properties with a federally backed mortgage.”

The latest eviction moratorium is set to last until October 30.

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