Housing activists are asking for an extension of the eviction moratorium of 90 days

Florida's old Capitol building in Tallahassee. (Spectrum News file)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Housing reform activists called for Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday to extend the state moratorium on evictions and executions by 90 days, an action they believe would help alleviate the mounting fear that thousands of Floridians are at risk to be booted from their homes amid the coronavirus crisis.

What you need to know

  • More than 2,600 petitions filed by landlords in Florida during moratorium
  • Activists also called for forgiveness programs for renters, homeowners
  • Industry groups requesting more government support, vouchers or direct payments from banks instead
  • Florida will spend $ 250 million on federal CARES Act financing for rent and housing assistance

The governor has extended the moratorium twice, which he introduced in the early days of the crisis because millions of people lost their jobs. His latest extension will expire at the end of the month.

“Governor DeSantis, please act,” Alana Greer of the Florida Housing Justice Alliance told a virtual roundtable. “We need more than a week or a last minute call at the eleventh hour. What we need is bold action for an expulsion moratorium of 90 days or more. ”

Even during the moratorium, more than 2,600 petitions for eviction have been filed by Florida landlords. Many of them have been approved by judges, which means that if the moratorium were to expire, immediate action could be taken to evict tenants left on a rental basis.

The activists are also pressuring state leaders to set up forgiveness programs for renters and homeowners who have been unable to pay their rent and mortgages during the pandemic. As with debt cancellation arrangements where creditors accept partial payment of a delinquent customer’s total debt, banks and landlords would be required to write off a percentage of housing-related back payments.

But industry groups are against such sweeping forgiveness proposals. Instead, they have called for additional housing support from the government, either in the form of vouchers for tenants and homeowners, or as direct payments to banks and landlords.

In late Thursday, DeSantis announced that the state would spend $ 250 million in federal CARES Act funds on rent and mortgage support. Much of the money will go to local housing agencies, with the provinces experiencing the highest unemployment with the largest payouts.