Let’s get something straight out the door – the eviction moratoria have been as much a bailout for business owners and real estate owners as they have been a bailout for tenants.
It might seem odd at first, but think about what life would have been like for tenants and their landlords if all pandemic controls except moratoriums had been upheld. As of April 2020, Clark County’s unemployment rate exceeded 30%; Washoe County’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, was nearly 20%. Those are higher unemployment rates than what was experienced during the Great Recession, the consequences of which pushed rental rates below their pre-Recession peak for most of a decade.
So how have rents responded to the economic upheavals caused by both the pandemic and the controls applied to the economy to slow its spread? Have unprecedented unemployment rates, followed by delays of several months in the payment of unemployment benefits, led to the total collapse of the Nevada rental market?
The answer is clearly no. Rents have increased steadily every month of the pandemic.
Much of this is undoubtedly due to the moratoriums on evictions that have kept tenants in rental housing. According to the US census Current population survey / Vacant dwellings survey, Nevada’s rental vacancy rate in the first quarter of 2021 was 3.1% – in comparison, our state’s rental vacancy rate hit 16.6% in the first quarter of 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. Even though many tenants do not pay their rent, their units are not on the market because they are still occupying them. Therefore, the owners do not desperately fight over hot bodies to fill empty apartments. Instead, tenants compete for the few vacant rental units available, driving up prices – and indirectly helping their landlords to recoup some of the rents from their non-paying neighbors as well.
Like most government bailouts, the primary beneficiaries of the eviction moratoria, as well as the patchwork of rental aid programs meant to make landlords somewhat whole, are not individual Nevadans. Corporate rental companies having the resources to both dilute their losses due to non-paying tenants with higher rents from new tenants and enforce current rules regulation on the moratorium on evictions literally have the most to gain.
On the other hand, a family owner with only one or two rental units might have to wait months for the CARES housing assistance program to fix them, relying on the cooperation of their tenants to make the rescue process a success. . while they are doing without a large percentage of their rental income. Individual tenants, on the other hand, have to deal with a frustrating and baroque bureaucracy that assumes that the kind of people who struggle to pay rent have reliable internet access and both enough executive functions and institutional knowledge to perform well. reliable government forms with minimal assistance.
Fortunately for business owners, and unfortunately for the rest of us, the government has announced that this state of affairs will continue for a month.
There is, to be clear, no epidemiological reason to maintain the CDC’s moratorium on evictions for another month. According to Washington post, nearly two-thirds of all adults in the United States are currently vaccinated – since fully vaccinated individuals represent only 0.1 percent of all COVID-19-related hospitalizations, that means the pool of potentially ill Americans is shrinking rapidly. Reflecting this reality, daily deaths and new infections are now at their lowest rate since the start of the pandemic.
The CDC extended the moratorium on evictions by one month only because many layers of the U.S. government have struggled to effectively distribute CARES housing assistance program funding to tenants and landlords in a timely manner. Consequently, millions of American tenants still live in limbo, unsure whether the public aid promised to them over a year ago will be delivered to their owners in time to keep them in their homes – and racking up thousands of dollars in debt owed to them. their owners while they wait.
Fortunately, for renters and homeowners in Nevada, there is good news. The job market outside of Clark County has been the tightest in years, with most counties in Nevada declaring less than 5% unemployment. Even in Clark County itself, which still has a recession-like 9% unemployment rate, the job market is tightening enough for employers to hold elaborate career fairs and offer incentives for news. recruits. Meanwhile, while many Nevada tenants have struggled to pay their rent, other tenants have done pretty well – well enough, in fact, to drive up house prices nationwide. and regional. much faster than rents since the start of the pandemic. Rising house prices, meanwhile, are encouraging builders to start building homes again – although homebuilding remains stubbornly below production. Clinton and Bush administrations, that’s still more than double the production built immediately after the Great Recession and moving in a healthy direction.
Together, the ingredients for a successful transition to a normal housing market are there.
Evictions are a stressful and regrettable reality for many Nevadans, but they were also before the pandemic. According to Expulsion laboratory, eviction rates in Nevada were above 5% before the Great Recession, only to drop when rental prices fell dramatically after the recession. This goes to show that the only reliable way to keep tenants in their homes is not through eviction moratoria and bureaucratically Byzantine federal aid programs – it is by making rental housing affordable, or by cutting back. considerably the cost of these, that is to say by considerably increasing the wages of the tenants. Between a tighter job market and ever-increasing housing construction, the elements are in place to offer both to Nevada tenants, provided we relax our rental market and allow it to dispel more uncertainty. as soon as possible.
None of this means we should let Nevada tenants writhing in the wind. For purely entrepreneurial reasons, we need as many Nevadans who work in our state as possible to work in our reopening casinos, restaurants and other service industries, which means we need to accommodate as many Nevadans who work in our state. state as possible. On a more humanitarian note, being evicted from your home is a stressful and damaging experience for everyone involved, an experience that is incredibly difficult and costly to recover. Therefore, we should try to avoid evictions as much as possible.
Organizations like the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, which provides a precious help for tenants who are struggling to navigate our current eviction process, will remain an important part of the recovery process for troubled tenants, but they are far from sufficient. Evicted tenants should be treated as people who need housing that better meets their current financial means, and not as morally dubious lepers. If private landlords don’t rent to them for fear of the credit risk of an evicted tenant, maybe the government should – evidence has shown this would be cheaper for taxpayers than our current approach of periodically pushing homeless people into expensive, government-run mental health facilities against their will or performing neighborhood sweeps that make both our staff homeless and our staff homeless. first responders in danger.
For all the damage the pandemic has inflicted on us, one of the benefits it has given Nevadans is the opportunity to reconsider which of our social systems is carrying the load and which of our systems is failing when we need them most. . Moratoriums on nebulous bureaucratic evictions and the ongoing struggle to keep tenants and landlords safe through federally administered assistance programs, while perhaps better than none, have long since lost their usefulness and are profiting. now to businesses that need help the least. It is time to overcome them.
David Colborne has been active in the Libertarian Party for two decades. During this time, he blogged intermittently on his personal blog, ran twice as a libertarian candidate, and served on the executive committee of his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is now the father of two sons, an IT manager and a registered non-partisan voter. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or send him an e-mail at [emailÂ protected].