HARTFORD, CT — With the eviction moratorium ending in two days, Gov. Ned Lamont said he planned to extend it, perhaps until the end of the year.
“I don’t want to just extend that. I want to extend that as part of our process to make sure that we have rent relief that allows landlords and tenants to create a path so people can start paying and making due on their rent payments,” Lamont said during a press conference following a Tuesday state Bond Commission meeting.
HOMEConnecticut, a statewide campaign for affordable housing in Connecticut, sent a letter to the governor’s office asking for an extension of Connecticut’s eviction moratorium until January 1, an expansion of the eviction moratorium to apply to pre-moratorium evictions, and additional funding for the state’s Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program (T-RHAP).
Much will depend on what steps the administration plans to take in addition to extending the eviction prohibition. Erin Kemple, executive director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, said the moratorium extension would help tenants in the short term but would not address the greater housing crisis in the state.
“Tenants need to know that they’re not going to get an eviction notice starting on Thursday. So that’s extremely helpful, but all this really does is kick the can down the road,” she said. “At the end of December, unless there is a sharp uptick in the economy and there doesn’t seem to be any prospect of that, then a lot of the tenants who haven’t been able to pay rent because they’re not working are going to continue to be unable to pay rent.”
That is exactly what landlords are worried about, according to John Souza, president of the Connecticut Coalition of Property Owners.
“You can’t walk into Whole Foods and leave with a shopping cart full of food every month and say, ‘Hey, I’ll pay you in six or nine months.’ The state says they’re still responsible for it and that’s fine but if the person can barely pay their rent normally, how are they going to pay the $10,000 they owe you at this point?” he said Tuesday.
Souza called the extension of the moratorium “more devastating news” for rental property owners. He said many landlords may lose their properties because they cannot afford to go without payment.
“A lot of these small landlords are holding on by their fingernails,” Souza, said Tuesday. In many cases, landlords are struggling to pay their own bills with a sizable percentage of their own income missing, he said. Some are doubting they will ever be able to recoup the money they have lost throughout the moratorium.
Lamont said he wanted to extend the moratorium in concert with rent relief.
Kemple said the state’s rental assistance program is underfunded and difficult to qualify for. The CT Mirror reported only two families received aid in the five months since the program was created.
Kemple suggested the state could shift the program so landlords can apply for the assistance rather than tenants. Either way, the rental assistance program requires more funding and neither the state nor the federal government seems likely to send more money, she said.
Lamont said Tuesday he was hoping to get landlords and tenants to negotiate a path forward.
“It’s not simply a matter of just handing out money to landlords and tenants,” Lamont said. “It’s going to require a discussion. A negotiation between the tenant and landlord and make sure they have a way they can stay in their apartment safely,” he said.
Landlords would jump at the chance to participate in such a program, Souza said, but he questioned whether the state would compel renters to participate.
“I commend them for doing it but it’s probably not enough money and if you stop paying your mortgage while you’re waiting, you’re going to lose your property. Taxes are due in January. We’re not talking chump change and that money’s got to come from somewhere,” he said.