As the number of positive cases in North Dakota rises, it is becoming evident that the coronavirus public health emergency is an economic emergency as well. Already employees in restaurants, shops and bars are seeing reduced hours or in some cases temporary layoffs. We do not know how long this will last and if it will mean permanent loss of income through closures of businesses hit hardest by this crisis.
The cost of living in some parts of North Dakota are making it hard for underemployed people to pay their rent. But now the uncertainty of future income is very real. Whole categories of people will be effected by the closures and cancellations of events. As this crisis worsens, we will see more and more people go into isolation, which may or may not covered by sick leave.
In some of our cities, rental units make up over half of the housing units, so this economic crisis may have a great impact.
If a tenant is late with rent in North Dakota, it is grounds for late fees and ultimately eviction. In this time of social distancing, evictions force people to interact with others by securing payment for a new unit (perhaps by visiting social service organizations) and finding new units, which puts everyone at risk.
We at High Plains Fair Housing Center ask that Gov. Doug Burgum and the chief judge of North Dakota put a moratorium on evictions that are the result of the economic hardship caused by the pandemic. The moratorium should cover every individual aspect of eviction proceedings and should cover every type of eviction case. Moreover, they should remain in effect at least throughout the social distancing period and possibly beyond that to enable people to apply for and obtain any kind of relief funds that may be forthcoming or at least work out payment plans and make other appropriate arrangements.
Eviction moratoriums are a much-needed response to the emergency of the moment.
Rydz is executive of the High Plains Fair Housing Center in Grand Forks.