Nonprofit leaders are worried about evictions in Summit County after the expiration of a federal moratorium
Some Summit County families find themselves in housing limbo after a federal eviction moratorium expired late last month but people cannot be removed from their homes until late August, a situation one nonprofit leader referred to as a “window of vulnerability.”
Nearly a dozen larger apartment complexes in Summit County were covered by the federal moratorium, but eviction notices have started to go out to families and individuals who are behind on their rent, according to two local nonprofit leaders. The moratorium, enacted as the pandemic struck, banned evictions for nonpayment of rent, but not for other causes like illegal activity.
Some housing complexes, like Iron Horse Park, have been more flexible than others with residents behind on their rent, the nonprofit leaders said, setting up flexible plans for past missed payments and eschewing evictions.
And the Christian Center of Park City is in its third round of rental assistance, according to Executive Director Rob Harter, having already directed more than $700,000 in aid across 1,800 payments, 90% of which have been for rent.
But Diego Zegarra, community impact director for the Park City Community Foundation, pointed out that the holding companies that operate many of the larger apartment complexes covered by the moratorium still need to get paid. He and Harter said they’ve heard of a few eviction notices going out, and that number may continue to rise in coming weeks.
These properties were among those subject to a federal eviction moratorium that expired July 25. While local nonprofit leaders say the eviction process has begun in some cases, residents cannot be removed from their homes for nonpayment of rent until Aug. 24. The nonprofit leaders are hoping an anticipated federal relief package will once again prevent evictions.
• Aspen Villas
• Holiday Village
• Iron Horse
• Silver Meadows
• Washington Mill
• Elk Meadows
• Liberty Peak
• New Park Studios
• Richer Place
• CROWN at Summit Mountain
Source: Summit County
Other properties that have federally backed loans or were created using some federal programs may also have been subject to the moratorium. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a list of some of these properties at nlihc.org/federal-moratoriums.
Many families owe a few rent payments, Zegarra said, with a total that might hit the low thousands of dollars. The impacts of an eviction, though, are often far-reaching.
“The most worrying thing is how does someone with $4,000 in debt from renting get into another rental property? I don’t think they can,” Zegarra said. “They are facing the very real prospect of homelessness.”
Harter noted the potential wider economic ramifications of evictions, as many people on the brink of losing their homes work in the local service industry.
“If it happens at a large scale, could be tough to keep the ski industry going, tourism going,” he said.
He mentioned the anxiety and panic created by financial strain, as well, a point Zegarra echoed.
“We’re seeing higher levels of anxiety, increased demand for mental health services and a general deterioration of health,” Zegarra said. And COVID-19 has been disproportionately affecting service workers, he said, adding a layer of fear to returning to work.
Zegarra said both the health and economic trends are disproportionately affecting the Latino population.
The federal CARES Act protected people living in properties that were built using federal programs like low-income tax credits or have federally backed loans through lenders like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
That moratorium expired July 25, but thanks to another provision in the CARES Act, those served with notices of eviction cannot be put out of their homes for 30 days, a protection that ends Aug. 24. Zegarra said he’s keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Washington and hoping the next federal relief package includes resumed eviction protection.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, using survey data from the middle of July, 14% of Utahns missed the previous month’s mortgage or rent payment, or have slight or no confidence that their household can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time. That accounts for some 240,000 people.
Zegarra and Harter praised the local philanthropic response to the pandemic and indicated that their organizations were keeping a close eye on the eviction processes. While they might be able to step in to help with some back rent payments, the problem could quickly become untenable.
“With the few number of (eviction) cases we’ve seen, we feel like we’ve been well-positioned to step in and support them given the community response fund has been successful in raising those dollars,” Zegarra said, referencing a philanthropic fund administered by the Park City Community Foundation that has distributed nearly $1.2 million locally since the onset of the pandemic. “(But it) doesn’t mean that pot is endless. Probably couldn’t do this every single month.”
Harter and Zegarra praised a local network of government officials, nonprofits and others that have come together to work on this issue.
“Not just one nonprofit waving a flag, there’s a mayor contacting (the management companies) or another nonprofit now — as it builds we found that that actually helped,” Harter said. Many of the larger apartment complexes have management companies based out of state and levels of administration that make it hard to pursue relief, they said, but they’ve started to see results once conversations occur with the people who are in positions to effect change.
Zegarra pointed out that many of the property managers who work and live locally are trying to keep those communities together, but they are faced with pressure from above.
On Monday, Iron Horse property manager Powell Smith said that complex was “absolutely not” pursuing evictions and was working with tenants to set up individual plans.
Representatives from Aspen Villas, another large apartment complex in the Prospector neighborhood, did not return multiple requests for comment. Harter said Elk Meadows Apartments in Pinebrook had taken steps recently to help tenants with back rent, while Zegarra praised the management of Aspen Villas for its transparency and communication.
“I think right now, we’re still in a pretty good spot,” Harter said. “I think in 30 days it could change.”
Zegarra said he hopes the window of vulnerability will be short lived and that the community will continue to be able to meet the challenge..
“We’re working on it — there’s still need and the outcome is a lot of high stress for the families,” he said. “Every first of the month, folks are looking at the calendar and are really losing sleep.”
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