As virus grips nation, advocates move to halt evictions

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FILE - This Dec. 5, 2019, photo shows the Detroit skyline. Detroit Charter Commission Vice Chair Nicole Small said the city, with one of the nations largest African American-majorities, has been hit particularly hard by foreclosures since the height of the mortgage crisis in 2008. Small said homeowners need relief beyond whats being offered in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – On the day after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic, Joe Ferguson was given a batch of court-ordered evictions to carry out in his job as constable in Tucson, Arizona.

He knocked on doors in the majority Hispanic community of South Tucson, told residents to gather personal effects, clothing, medications and pets, and watched as some families became homeless.

Ferguson says he strongly opposed the evictions, with the Arizona court system requiring him to toss people out of their homes even as the nation was going into a deeper state of lockdown and panic over the coronavirus.

“To serve the best interests of the entire community, while we’re all facing a public health epidemic, we should allow people to stay in their homes, so that we don’t stress our shelters, our hospitals and our first responders,” Ferguson said.

Then on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced a proposed $1.5 trillion package that he said includes “immediate relief to renters and homeowners" by suspending evictions and foreclosures for 60 days.

But, it turns out, the vast majority of renters will not be covered by the protections.

That's because the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s plan only covers single-family homes with loans through the Federal Housing Administration — roughly 8 million homeowners, most of whom are not under foreclosure, according to HUD.

That compares to the roughly 43 million households who rented in 2019, according to the U.S. Census. Roughly half rent their home from an individual investor, while the other half rent from a business or multi-unit property owner. The ones renting from a business will not receive any protections, according to HUD’s proposal.