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Eviction Orders Spiked In Connecticut When Federal Moratorium Lapsed

Evictions Continue Despite CDC Moratorium As COVID-19 Ravages U.S. Economy
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A maintenance man changes the lock of an apartment after the tenant was evicted. Judges in Connecticut approved dozens of eviction orders in early August when a federal moratorium was briefly lifted.

Connecticut got a preview of just how many renters faced eviction when the federal moratorium was lifted for two days.

Before the federal order was reinstated Wednesday, judges in Connecticut signed a surge of orders that allow state marshals to remove tenants and their belongings from their homes.

Yoni Zamir is a legal aid attorney who represents two of the 154 families that judges approved to be evicted while the federal moratorium was lifted Monday and Tuesday.

One had received rental assistance through the state’s UniteCT program, but there was still a small balance it didn’t cover, so the landlord hesitated to drop the eviction case, despite it being a requirement to get the rental assistance. The other, the landlord refused to participate in the rental assistance program, and now the mother and her four children are facing homelessness.

“This is one of those cases where someone has been sort of seeing this looming for a long time, and now it’s here ...” Zamir said. “She might end up in a hotel. She might end up in a shelter. It all depends on what’s available.”

The 154 families that judges gave the nod to be evicted is double the number of evictions that were granted in recent weeks. It also mirrors pre-pandemic eviction levels.

But the pandemic hasn’t fully subsided, and fair housing attorneys point out that those facing eviction tend to live in ZIP codes with the lowest vaccination rates, which tend to be low-income communities of color.

Because evictions often lead to people cramming into a friend’s or family’s place — or homelessness — it makes it incredibly difficult to follow public health experts’ pleas to physically distance and quarantine if exposed or infected.

In Connecticut, Latino residents are three times as likely to face eviction as white residents, according to a CT Mirror analysis from April. And while evictions are happening in nearly every community, residents living in the state’s lowest-income communities are facing eviction much more frequently. For example, Bridgeport renters are being evicted at almost twice the rate as renters in Fairfield and Westport, an analysis by CT Public found.

Erin Kemple, executive director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, said that nearly all of the evictions granted during the two-day lift were in high-poverty communities of color.

“It reinforces what we’ve known all along, which is the pandemic is hitting people of color harder than white communities.”

But many landlords are frustrated with the restrictions around whom they can evict.

Bob De Cosmo, president of the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance, told CT Public on the day the federal moratorium was lifted that there wouldn’t be a huge influx of evictions and that people are gaming the system.

“There’s people that sort of, and I hate to use this terminology, but they kind of make their living by not paying your bills,” he said. “I’m going on record saying there will be no tsunami of evictions.”

Reacting to the latest numbers, De Cosmo said an increase is inevitable because there’s a significant backlog of cases.

“I think that the best option here is to let the system work,” he said.

The federal moratorium is now set to expire Oct. 3 or potentially earlier if the spread of the virus slows drastically. Advocates hope that will give the state enough time to distribute the remaining $373 million it received for rental assistance, but it has been slow to roll out.

For the dozens whom the courts evicted when the ban was lifted, attorneys have asked the Judicial Branch to recall the removal orders since the moratorium is again in place.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas is an investigative reporter with Connecticut Public’s Accountability Project.
Jim Haddadin is a data journalist for The Accountability Project, Connecticut Public's investigative reporting team. He was previously an investigative producer for NBC Boston, and wrote for newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.