Protestors stand with signs to support stopping eviction during this pandemic. “I’m advocating for everyone to stay in house during this pandemic,” said one of the protestors, Karen Salim with the Cancel Rent CT. She said she wants the government to cancel rent and provide robust solutions so people aren’t evicted. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Alice Prael, of New Haven, left, and Adam, who didn’t want to give his last name, stand with signs in front of Bradshaw’s house during an emergency hearing. “I’m just here to support as much as I can,” Prael said. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

With state and federal restrictions on who can be evicted set to expire Dec. 31, a trio of state and federal developments will help keep many Connecticut renters in their homes through at least the end of January.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday he plans to extend the state’s eviction moratorium until Feb. 9. Congressional leaders announced Sunday evening they reached a deal on an economic stimulus package that housing advocates estimate will send an estimated $237.3 million to help Connecticut residents pay rent. The deal also extends the federal order to halt some evictions through January.

As the economic slowdown brought on by COVID-19 drags into a tenth month, housing advocates celebrated the news.

“Many tenants will be relieved and happy to know that in the midst of celebrating the holidays, they will not have to worry about packing to leave their homes. With the possibility of another spike after the Christmas holidays, we do not want to cause a further increase in infection rates and possibly deaths by moving people out of their homes,” said Erin Kemple, the executive director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

Despite the federal and state eviction moratoriums, the state’s eviction levels have already returned to about one-third what they were before the pandemic. Last week, landlords filed 99 eviction complaints and judges approved 59 orders that allow a state marshal to remove a tenant and their belongings. These are the result of various exceptions the governor has shielded from the moratorium, including tenants being 6 months behind on rent or when the landlord intends to occupy the residence.

Lamont’s office intends to issue the executive order soon, and a spokesman said he does not expect it to add any additional exceptions for landlords to evict tenants.

Lamont said last week he was extending the eviction protections until Feb. 9, which is when his executive authority, provided under the COVID-19 emergency, to override state laws ends. He also pointed out that the legislature, which is set to convene for its annual session Jan. 6, will have the opportunity to decide the next steps.

“That non-eviction [order] gives us more time — say another five, six weeks at a minimum — unless the legislature would like to extend it to allow landlords and tenants to negotiate a way that people get to stay in their homes,” Lamont said.

A federal order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halt some evictions went into effect in September, but it is unclear what impact the order has had in Connecticut. The governor left it to the courts to determine if the order applies, but as of last week, just 24 tenants in the state had submitted the CDC declaration to try to stop their eviction.

With the federal money it received early in the pandemic, the state set up a rental assistance program to give up to $4,000 each to roughly 11,500 families. Overwhelmed with 15,000 people requesting aid and only $40 million to hand out, the state stopped accepting new applications for that program Dec. 3. The financial advisory firm Stout Risius Ross estimates it would cost an additional $149 million to $274 million to shield as many as 161,000 households in Connecticut that still face eviction in January.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has more details on the rental assistance here.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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