By PrincessSafiya Byers
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Struggling renters got more time to work with their landlords this week thanks to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, which issued a new ban on evictions that expires Oct. 3.
Milwaukee housing advocates, including Deb Heffner, the housing strategy director for Community Advocates; Joanne Lipo Zovic of Mediate Milwaukee; and Colleen Foley, the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, said they believe that Milwaukee is covered under the new moratorium. This order seeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus’ highly contagious Delta variant.
The CDC’s COVID data tracker shows that Milwaukee has high levels of community transmission.
Here are some things you should know from our previous reporting:
Why did the CDC enact the ban?
The CDC originally enacted the halt on evictions to stem the spread of COVID–19, seasonal influenza and the increased risk of homeless shelters becoming overcrowded in fall and winter.
In a news release Tuesday, CDC officials said: “The eviction moratorium allows additional time for rent relief to reach renters and to further increase vaccination rates. In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria—like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing—can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease.”
What does the moratorium do anyway?
Tenants who have missed monthly rent payments are protected from being forced out of their homes if they declared financial hardship. The ban slowed but did not completely halt eviction filings. Milwaukee is still seeing hundreds of eviction filings each month but far fewer than in typical years, according to Eviction Lab.
What are landlords saying?
Before Tuesday’s news, officials representing the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin urged their members “to continue to work diligently to help their renters apply and complete the application process for emergency rental assistance.”
“We have tenants that have been with us for over 30 years, and we have never raised their rent, not once,” said Ethel Armstead, who owns several properties in Milwaukee with her husband, JW. “Now even though the federal eviction moratorium says that people still have to pay rent . . . many tenants have taken it as they don’t have to pay since you can’t evict them.”
According to Armstead, the same way “slum landlords exist, slum tenants exist.”
“It’s difficult to provide decent and affordable housing when you are only losing money. We know several landlords that are liquidating and getting out of the business because it’s almost impossible to make a profit if that’s your only source of income,” she said. “The housing market is booming and they’re taking advantage of it.”
Denisha Tate-McAlister, project director at the Dominican Center in Amani, told NNS in June that she sees this often.
“I’ve had cases where we personally worked with tenants, and they choose not to utilize the resources available to them, but they also won’t vacate people’s properties unless forced out,”
Tate-McAlister said. “When they finally do leave, they leave messes and damage behind.”
“Some tenants don’t care about the property and landlords pay for it,” Armstead added.
What should I do now?
Tenants should seek help through rent assistance programs being administered by Community Advocates and the Social Development Commission, and they should reach out to the Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center for other housing issues.
Resources to consult if you’re worried about eviction
• Community Advocates rent helpline: 414-270-4646
• Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: 414-727-5300
• Mediate Milwaukee: 414-939-8800
• Legal Action of Wisconsin: 855-947-2529
• Social Development Commission: 414-906-2700
• Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union: 414-410-9714
• Take Root Milwaukee for assistance with mortgage issues/foreclosure: 414-921-4149
In case you missed it
Four main takeaways from “Making rent,” a conversation about eviction and tenant rights
Check out our Instagram Story on “Milwaukee resources to help you avoid evictions.”
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