Guest Columnist

Action is needed to avoid wave of evictions in Iowa

If the eviction moratorium expires, thousands of Iowans could suddenly face homelessness

(Dreamstime/TNS)
(Dreamstime/TNS)

As the weather grows colder and we begin holiday preparation, many in our community are facing the prospect of losing their home in the New Year. The current moratorium on evictions, which was set in place to curb the spread of Coronavirus, is set to expire in less than 60 days.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, Indigenous and immigrant households. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one in six renters nationally are behind on rent. While overall this represents 16 percent of all adults, when you break the data down further it is clear that white renters are doing significantly better than others. Only 10 percent of white renters are behind on rent, while 26 percent of Black adult renters and 18 percent of Latinx renters are behind.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, low-wage workers were already the most vulnerable to financial instability. They have also lost their jobs at the highest rate compared to other workers. Further, the people relying on unemployment benefits after losing their jobs due to COVID-19 were notified at the end of October that the unemployment expansion in Iowa would end on October 31. They are now forced to rely on the moratorium on evictions to avoid homelessness as we approach the coldest part of the year and a surge in virus cases.

The ban on evictions expiring Dec. 31 does not prohibit late fees or provide any forgiveness for unpaid rent. If the current moratorium expires as planned, half a million unemployed Iowans will suddenly be faced with months of back rent due and possible homelessness.

Financially vulnerable homeowners typically rely on wages from at-risk industries. While current homeowners face huge risks in maintaining homeownership, the future of homeownership is in jeopardy as well. It has been repeatedly shown that one of the most consistent ways for a person to build wealth for themselves and their children is through homeownership. The impact COVID-19 will have on the rate of homeownership could lead to increasing disparities in generational wealth and security.

In response, Horizons is ramping up our presence and capacity to assist with foreclosure mitigation services. We are ready and prepared to help individuals apply for a loan modification, or to navigate their exit plan should it become necessary. We also are increasing the availability of rental housing counseling sessions. Horizons is also certified by HUD to provide rental counseling workshops. The economic effects of the pandemic are unfolding before our eyes and impacting the most vulnerable members of our community.

Thankfully, we live in a community rich with resources and collaboration. Our Financial Wellness Center is ready to collaborate and connect to ensure the long-term efficacy of eviction and foreclosure prevention, while creating a solid financial foundation for our clients to build a better future.

Kelzye Bedwell is director of financial stability for Horizons, A Family Service Alliance.

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