ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — More than 50,000 families in Louisiana are hoping rental assistance money can help them stay in their homes.
Concerns about housing are rising now that a federal ban on evictions has expired. The moratorium was meant to keep tenants in their homes to prevent the spread of COVID. Two days after the federal ban on evictions expired, people are asking for help from Family Promise of St. Tammany Parish.
“It’s here. We’ve seen a 30% increase in calls just this morning,” said David Horchar, executive director of Family Promise of St. Tammany Parish.
Throughout the pandemic, the shelter has given a helping hand to Northshore families who struggled with housing. David Horchar’s team feared that when the eviction moratorium was lifted, more families could face homelessness. They are preparing for just that.
“We went from an empty shelter, because we had some success in getting some families housed, to probably not going to have enough beds by the end of the week unfortunately,” Horchar said.
Housing advocates like Andreanecia Morris are telling parties on both sides of the eviction dilemma to have dialogue with each other. She’s especially pleading with landlords, telling them that just because you can move ahead with evictions, doesn’t mean you have to.
“We’re urging everyone to not do the unthinkable, not try to force your tenants out, not to try to pressure them into leaving,” Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA, said.
According to data from the state of Louisiana, more than 60,000 households have applied for rental assistance this year. So far, less than 11,000 have been approved. Perhaps most frustrating to both renters and landlords is the fact that the federal government has a substantial amount of money available to get rents paid.
“Louisiana has been allocated over half-a-billion dollars in rental assistance. That money is just sitting in city, state and parish coffers, and it’s not being distributed. That’s where everyone has got to focus,” Morris said.
“The processes to get those funds take so long to get the money to the landlords that the moratorium, in my opinion, should’ve been extended,” Horchar said
HousingNOLA reminds renters there is a 30-day window before an eviction based on non-payment related to the pandemic can take effect. Many hope landlords and tenants can take that time and work out differences that have been brewing for more than a year.