Rental Crisis Likely For New Orleans

This news has been coming for a while, but it’s still unpleasant to report on. As of right now, the city of New Orleans has exhausted all of its rental assistance funds. There’s nothing left in the pot and no new assistance on the horizon for anyone in arrears with their rent or struggling to acquire accommodation in the city at the moment. That’s the devastating news that local leaders gave to the city’s community on Friday, July 16th.

The popularity of the fund has played a significant role in demand outstripping supply so quickly. The Mayor’s Office of Housing Policy and Community Development has received and approved applications for funding that exceed the eighteen million dollar budget that the department was working with. A little over $250,000 over the budget has also been approved for funding, and those applications are now in the hands of the city’s Rental Assistance Program. No further applications will be considered for the foreseeable future. 

The funding program comes with two objectives. The first is to solve disputes between tenants and their landlords about late or missed payments. When an application for funding of this type is approved, money is paid directly to the tenant for them to pay on to their landlord and bring past due balances up to date. The second objective is to make it easier for prospective tenants with bad credit histories or no proof of income to find housing. This is a particularly pertinent problem for those working in hospitality, entertainment, or other “gig industry” jobs where incomes are paid in cash rather than electronically. Such people have been able to look to the rental assistance program for assistance in these matters in the past. They won’t be able to do so any longer. 

Mayor Cantrell believes that New Orleans should be owed a further nine million dollars by the State of Louisiana for the program and has written to the State Secretary of Treasury to express this opinion and formally request the additional funds. Thus far, there hasn’t been a response from the state. Even if there is, it would be a band-aid for a bullet wound in terms of how far that money would stretch. The additional funding would be allocated very quickly, and thousands of people would still be left in perilous situations after missing out on assistance. 

This leaves anybody who’s currently considering making a rental application in a difficult position if their application would rely on rental assistance. They can either go ahead with the application and hope the additional funding materialises, or they can put their aspirations of having somewhere to live on hold. That’s not an easy choice to make. It’s like playing an online slots game – you throw in your coin and hope that there will be a reward for you when the reels stop spinning, but you don’t know if or when that reward might turn up. That’s good fun and games when you’re at an Online Slots IE website, but not so much fun when your quality of living is on the line. Perhaps more pointedly, there’s at least the possibility of landing the jackpot or a big win every time you place a bet at an online slots website. If more funds don’t materialise, there might be no “jackpot” at all in this scenario. 

Whether or not the state of Louisiana is capable of providing further funding is another matter. Unfortunately, the problem of rental arrears and a lack of funding assistance isn’t specific to New Orleans. It’s a much wider problem that troubles every town and city in the state to a greater or lesser degree. Problems with rental arrears are particularly pressing and have become more so because of the effects of the pandemic. A record number of people across the state are understood to have defaulted on their tenancy agreements and are now liable to face eviction. Even the most optimistic forecasts for the months ahead speak of a spike in evictions in Louisiana. Those evictions will occur even if more aid is granted. If there’s no new aid, the situation will become far worse. 

Given the severity of the situation, many campaigners are calling for an extension to the current federal freeze on evictions. The existing one is due to expire on July 31st, and a further extension isn’t thought to be likely. President Joe Biden has already extended the date once on the understanding that states will make their own provisions to help people after that point, and he’s now likely to let landlords get back to their normal processes. That’s bad news not only for New Orleans and Louisiana but for millions of people across the United States of America who have been relying on assistance schemes to keep a roof over their heads. The most recent figure available comes from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which estimated in early June that 3.2m people are likely to lose their homes within the next two months. It’s an epidemic of evictions, and it’s looking increasingly likely that nothing is going to be done to stop it. 

More than one hundred thousand households in Louisiana who have reported rent arrears are households that contain children. In other states, there are measures that prevent families with children from being evicted onto the streets. No such provisions exist in Louisiana, and legal defences against a landlord filing a suit for nonpayment of rent are limited. When a landlord files, they almost always win. A spike in evictions will inevitably lead to a spike in homelessness across the city. This crisis that’s been bubbling away in the background of city and statewide politics for the past twelve months is about to explode, and the consequences of that explosion are likely to be dire. 

Ideally, additional funding will be approved and issued to the city before the deadline of the end of July. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. A solution has to be found for this problem before families across the country lose their homes. 

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