In the month since the moratorium expired, housing experts say surge in evictions is yet to come

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While the number of eviction cases heard in courts has increased, the number of people displaced has not reached the level housing services providers expected. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—Before New York’s eviction moratorium was lifted last month, housing experts and advocates statewide worried its end would lead to a flood of evictions.

Some of them now say that surge is still coming, but hasn’t arrived yet.

While the number of eviction cases heard in courts has increased, the number of people displaced has not reached the level initially expected by housing services providers.

Chastity McEwen, director of housing and community services at the Family Enrichment Network of Greater Binghamton (FEN), said that is because most landlords didn’t move forward with evictions until after the moratorium expired on Jan. 15.

“And then with the backlog in the courts, you’re not going to see legal evictions at least for another month or two,” McEwen said.

Residents who have applied for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) may be protected from eviction. Tenants with an application approved or pending cannot be legally evicted, according to the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Nancy Williams, commissioner of the Broome County Department of Social Services, said she believes that is, in part, why her department has not seen an influx of evictions.

“People are reaching out now to say, ‘I didn’t apply for ERAP, I want to apply,’” Williams said. “We’re still meeting with people, we’re still taking appointments. People can still contact 211. The [ERAP] portal is open.”

FEN has also seen an uptick in the number of people calling for help with back rent in the last month. According to McEwen, the organization has received more than 50 referrals, often from 211, for rent relief since Jan. 15.

The non-profit has worked with the city of Binghamton to administer rent relief funds allocated in the 2020 federal CARES Act. As of late January, the city had roughly $620,000 left to distribute to renters.

Applicants who are facing eviction and have experienced a loss of income due to the pandemic may receive up to twelve months of rent payments.

But experts have found it challenging to grasp how many households will be helped, and how many will remain at risk of eviction, including residents who are not even brought to court. Legal aid attorneys have reported a widespread trend of illegal evictions, in which landlords evict tenants without court orders, since eviction bans went into place nationwide.

McEwen said those who have been evicted in recent weeks have been left with nowhere to go. The moratorium halted the usual flow of people in and out of homes, she explained, and there isn’t enough available housing to meet the need as it is.

Keith McCafferty, managing attorney at Legal Assistance of Western New York, told the Ithaca Common Council that while local housing experts expect evictions to surge, it is hard to predict how large it will be.

“We’ve seen an uptick, certainly from almost zero to having, five or more per week in [Ithaca] city court, but we don’t know what it’s going to happen in the next six months,” he said. “It’s hard to predict how much we need in terms of resources to meet that capacity.”

WSKG wants to share the stories of residents facing eviction or foreclosure in the Southern Tier. Reach out to WSKG housing reporter Jillian Forstadt at jforstadt@wskg.org