Can US tenants cope with COVID eviction protections ending?

Housing rights campaigner Rob Robinson and Legal Aid’s Beth Mellen on the housing crisis in the United States.

“Once the courts open up, we will see a rush to evict,” says housing rights campaigner Rob Robinson. America’s federal moratorium on evictions ended in August last year and, with COVID housing protections almost all gone, the expected wave of evictions will likely worsen the country’s homelessness crisis.

Robinson himself was unhoused for two years and eventually “found his way out”. But he warns against the narrative that unhoused people should be able to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”.

“I had an infrastructure around me. I had knowledge of how it was to live not homeless. Many of the folks who were suffering had lived in poverty and struggled all their lives … You can’t just pick yourself up by your bootstraps. You need support.”

Beth Mellen, the director of Legal Aid’s Eviction Defense Project, says preventive solutions such as aid from the federal government can help. “In DC, we’ve had about $400m in rental assistance distributed to landlords on behalf of tenants. And so, it may have just kind of held off on a tsunami that’s gradually going to come.”

On UpFront, Marc Lamont Hill speaks with Rob Robinson from the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights and Beth Mellen, director of Legal Aid’s Eviction Defense Project, about the housing crisis facing tenants in US cities.