ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Economists are warning that a tidal wave of evictions is coming if Congress fails to extend more help to people thrown out of work by the coronavirus crisis.
The extra $600 pandemic unemployment payments are likely to expire in days. In Virginia, the moratorium on evictions has already ended, Maryland's moratorium stops at the end of the month and D.C's runs through October.
Some landlords are struggling, and many tenants are terrified.
Sami Bourma said he has nightmares and barely sleeps. He has two young kids, his wife and himself all crammed into a one-bedroom apartment in Alexandria.
The managers of the Southern Towers apartments have already filed with the court to have him evicted. His worst fear is that his family will end up homeless.
"That's my terrifying thing, I'm thinking about every day and every night," he said.
Bourma worked as a chef, a union organizer and an Uber driver, but everything collapsed when the pandemic struck. Bourma, and dozens of other tenants at Southern Towers, have been on a rent strike. The company that manages the towers issued a statement:
“Bell Partners knows this a difficult and concerning time. We have taken measures to help ease anxiety and potential financial burdens for our residents. Our team has regularly attempted to reach every resident who is experiencing rent challenges (by phone, email, and notices delivered to their apartments) to understand their situation and walk through their options. We have offered those residents the ability to enroll in a payment plan at no additional cost, extended due dates for rent and waived late payment and credit card fees. We are also working closely with the City of Alexandria and its Office of Housing to help residents evaluate additional options for assistance. Bell Partners is absorbing any fees associated with enrolling in the payment plans, and residents who enroll will not pay more money than they would have otherwise.”
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The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington said the government has to do more or face a domino effect of disaster.
"This really has to be an all hands on deck situation," Brian Gordon, of the association, said. "We need help from the federal government, from the state, and from the localities as well....We really need to be focused on rental assistance to help people get back into good standing and sustain themselves."
In Montgomery County, Executive Marc Elrich (D) said a new $20 million local aid package won't be enough to stop a tsunami of evictions.
"We need a willingness from all our partners to put money into this so we don't have massive displacements that will only make things worse," he said.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers continue to haggle over another relief package, with no agreement in sight so far.
The Alexandria court gave the Bourma family another 60 days. But after that, he fears eviction.