OLYMPIA, Wash. — With the end of the eviction moratorium in sight, the governor’s office has confirmed an extension will be announced later this week to “bridge” evictions until state-created programming can take effect.
Thousands of renters across Washington are in a state of limbo, as just eight days remain until the statewide COVID-related eviction ban expires on June 30.
As of now, come July 1, landlords would once again be able to raise rent and enforce evictions for backed rent.
A handful of cities including Seattle, Kenmore, Burien and Kirkland, have taken it upon themselves to extend the eviction moratorium, which some argue is actively preventing a “boom” in homelessness.
But during a Tuesday press conference on vaccination rates, the governor’s office confirmed Gov. Jay Inslee will provide a short-term extension to “bridge” evictions until the programs created by the state legislature can take effect. Those programs will provide millions in backed pay to landlords and grant further protections for renters.
Robert Akhtar manages the Angle Crest apartments in SeaTac.
“We have invested in each unit an average of about $35,000,” said Akhtar.
Pre-pandemic, Akhtar began renovating each of the 18 units. The goal was to provide high-end finishes, while keeping the costs low for his tenants.
“Most of my tenants are actually from agencies, they’re underprivileged and came from motels, shelters, the ones who were declined by the corporate apartments,” Akhtar said. “We bend our rules to give them another chance.”
Akhtar believes he is rather lenient with those who live in the 16 currently occupied units -- allowing many tenants to remain in their units when they couldn’t pay rent well before COVID-19 hit.
“Unfortunately, two of my tenants were under eviction and we were halfway done there when the moratorium came in and everything went sideways,” Akhtar explained.
Since the moratorium went into effect, he has felt taken advantage of. The two units that were supposed to be evicted now owe a combined $55,000.
Overall, 12 of the 16 units currently owe Akhtar money – a grand total of $110,246 in back rent.
For the first time, Akhtar said he can’t pay his property taxes. Now, with further eviction moratoriums on the horizon, he fears he will lose his property.
“I’m almost already out of funds,” he said. “By having the tenants out here not paying anything, I feel as though the law is designed to strangle us, squeeze us.”
According to Pulse Date from the U.S Census, more than 190,000 Washingtonian renters owe money due to backed rent.
It’s an issue Rachael Myers, the Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, faces daily.
“We hear from renters all the time about how about how fearful they are about what happens when the moratorium ends,” she said. “There are people who have a number of months of back rent to pay, and even if they’re back at work now they’re not going to be able to get the, you know, they don’t have the resources to catch up immediately, as of July 1.”
Myers said the WLIHA believes the governor has been a leader throughout the course of the pandemic, protecting renters from eviction. She said they hope he will continue to take a firm stance until the programs crafted by the state legislature could take effect.
“If the moratorium runs out before protections are in place, not only are we going to see you know many, likely tens of thousands of people being evicted -- potentially hundreds of thousands of people… (but) many of those people will become homeless because they don’t have other options, and we’ll see the disparities in evictions, in homelessness, and then in housing insecurity, more broadly by race, grow over what already exists.”
Part of the legislature-crafted program is roughly $170 million in aid to landlords.
Akhtar said he knows relief is on the way. Still, given the limitations as to how much funding landlords can receive, he doubts he will see enough money to cover the tab his tenants have running.
“It just blows my mind, it pushes me over the edge, this is very unfair,” he said. “If these people cannot pay now, just imagine, when can they pay?”
The governor is expected to make an announcement regarding the bridge extension Thursday.
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