A new analysis of Census data shows Michigan families who rent are struggling to keep their homes afloat during the pandemic.
MICHIGAN — The coronavirus continues to threaten Michiganders’ wallets almost as much as their health. With a cycle of economic starts and stops across the globe, local commerce is at the mercy of a worldwide market, ultimately jeopardizing the most basic human needs: shelter.
An analysis of U.S. Census data reveals that 43% of Michiganders are now at risk of losing their housing. Michigan residents like Anthony Sumners faced who once faced housing insecurity are worried again.
“Everything is uncertain,” Sumner told the Detroit Free Press. “As long as there is no effect at work, in terms of hours and things of that nature, I won’t have a problem. But I don’t know.”
Sumner, 60, was already behind on his rent when he was hospitalized with the coronavirus. The restaurant he worked at had closed by the time he was discharged and continued recovering from the infection at home.
By then, he had no income and a looming $1,500 debt. Since, he has received legal aid and unemployment assistance to help him catch up on all of his bills.
When Gov. Whitmer moved the lower peninsula into phase 4 of the MI Safe Start plan, his restaurant reopened and he was recalled to work.
Now that coronavirus cases are back on the rise both in Michigan and globally, Sumners is worried that shut downs could be on the table again. Protections that were in place to help residents like him keep his home in the beginning of the pandemic have expired throughout most of the state.
Another threat to the moratorium
Last month the state banned evictions, but the legal process is heating back up with tenants reporting receiving eviction notices from cash-strapped landlords.
Detroiters still have until Aug. 17 to save their properties, but suburban and rural renters are already facing possibilities of homelessness amid the pandemic due to unpaid rent.
Unjanai Thomas, 26, of Westland owes over $2,000 in back rent. The single mother of three lost her regular child care when the pandemic forced her daycare to close. That led to her losing her job at a local grocery store.
Her mother, usually her support system, was home recovering from the coronavirus.
“It’s just me with three babies,” Thomas said to The Detroit News. “I didn’t have any control over the daycare getting shut down. I didn’t have control over my mom getting sick.”
Thomas’ landlord notified her of the pending eviction on July 16, the day the state’s ban on evictions expired.
Before the pandemic, Michigan averaged nearly 17,000 eviction case filings a month. State officials estimate that could be more than 75,000 cases filed once the ban is lifted.
Avoiding another crisis
“No Michigander should have to worry about losing their home during a global health pandemic and, at the same time, landlords and management companies need rent from their tenants to sustain their businesses,” Gov. Whitmer said when first executing the order creating the EDP. “This innovative new program will save lives, save money, and save businesses by keeping families in their homes and providing immediate financial relief to landlords for back rent they’re due.”
Funded with $60 million in federal coronavirus aid, the EDP will help tenants pay outstanding rent owed to landlords. It also requires payment plans for tenants who do not qualify for 100% of their rent to be paid. Funding for the program runs now through December 30.