How Georgia’s U.S. Senate and Congressional candidates plan to address the looming eviction crisis
By Sean Keenan
With Election Day on the other side of this coming weekend, Georgians have precious little time to figure out who they’re going to pick to lead the local, state and federal governments. And with a global pandemic forcing everyone to look at life through a new lens, many of the issues that might dictate who claims these important elected posts now carry some sort of COVID-19-related bent.
Housing affordability, an issue that historically has not garnered the kind of attention it’s deserved, for instance, has been thrust to the forefront of the minds of people who might otherwise overlook it. The coronavirus’s economic side effects have placed a massive question mark behind the housing stability of folks who long regarded their living situations as concrete.
And, as SaportaReport has extensively reported in the past, the economic fallout of the pandemic is threatening hundreds of thousands of Georgians with eviction, as furloughs, layoffs and other blows to people’s incomes have saddled many with difficult decisions about, say, whether they can pay rent or utility bills, or if grocery shopping and medical expenses might need to take precedent.
Earlier this month, Atlanta magazine asked Georgia’s U.S. Senate candidates and Congressional candidates from the 5th, 6th and 7th Districts where they stood on a number of vital issues. Among the questions sent to these political hopefuls was one about how the government should react to the seemingly impending swell of displacement. The candidates’ answers are provided below. To read up on where the candidates leaned on a vast array of other matters, click here to see Atlanta magazine’s full collection.
Hundreds of thousands of Georgians could face eviction due to the economic hardships spurred by the pandemic, and many of those residents are relying on government-imposed eviction moratoriums to keep them at home for now. But once those protections expire, people will still owe rent. What recourse do they have? And what protections should landlords have for cases of delinquent renters? Should landlord and tenant laws be changed to adapt to the COVID-19 era?
Angela Stanton-King, 5th Congressional District candidate: Yes, landlord and tenant laws need to be changed. I would like to see block grants available to states for landlords and tenants to help people get back on their feet. We should do everything in our power to help our fellow citizens rebound from this pandemic that ultimately has affected all of us in some way.
Lucy McBath, 6th Congressional District candidate: I am proud to have voted for legislation which invests in affordable housing by directing funding to create jobs, stimulate the economy, and reduce housing inequality in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have also voted for legislation which ensures families in our district are not being forcibly removed from their homes, and even worked to cut taxes by thousands for families in our district to ease the financial stress.
Lastly, I have co-sponsored legislation to ensure all families living in affordable housing are able to live in a safe environment, while expanding grants to help communities facing hard times.
Carolyn Bourdeaux, 7th Congressional District candidate: Stimulus payments, expanded unemployment insurance, and the Paycheck Protection Program have given Georgians a lifeline, but more relief is sorely needed.
Housing insecurity has been a serious issue in Georgia long before the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that many struggling families live in extended-stay facilities in the 7th District because they cannot afford housing. This is ridiculous. At the federal level, we can expand support for affordable housing programs through programs such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and the Section 8 program. We can do more to ensure that developers consistently incorporate moderate- and low-income housing if they receive public support for their projects.
Matt Lieberman, U.S. Senate candidate: The government needs to protect all those who are threatened by eviction as a consequence of the pandemic, without infringing on the rights of landlords. The Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced two separate acts to provide protections and relief to renters and homeowners, but unfortunately these acts have been held up in the Senate (respectively, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act and the HELP Act of 2020).
On a personal level, I believe that apart from providing relief to tenants in need, we need to come up with a way to ensure that while people are not evicted, landlords are able to collect unpaid rent. One way to do just that would be to provide special government financing to renters that allows them to pay their back rent with zero interest over the course of the following 18 months.
Raphael Warnock, U.S. Senate candidate: Washington politicians have failed Georgia families and all Americans during the pandemic [by] failing to provide enough relief for workers facing unemployment as the coronavirus rages on. Unlike my opponents, I’ve called for extending benefits and other protections, like freezing evictions, until the pandemic is manageable.
I believe Congress needs to extend protections that keep people in their homes, and also gets more aid into the hands of people and their landlords until we have weathered this pandemic. In the midst of this pandemic, the economic livelihoods of millions have been threatened through no fault of their own. People want to get back on their feet, and our leaders must help them do so during this crisis.
Shane Hazel, U.S. Senate candidate: Economic hardships were not spurred by the pandemic. Economic hardships were spurred by unconstitutional government lockdowns. Because the government took unconstitutional and illegal action by interfering in the economy, they have placed Americans on new ground. They bailed out the banks and the corporations with our money. Then they destroy the economy and our livelihoods. Now the banks in the state, via the sheriffs and the cops, will forcibly remove people from their homes all because the government declared them nonessential. This is not America. As a senator, this is one that I would make the banks and the government eat.
Doug Collins, U.S. Senate candidate: The Trump administration has taken important actions to ensure individuals facing financial hardship tied to the pandemic are not at risk for eviction. Future policies must be mindful of the impact this pandemic has had on both tenants and landlords, who are both experiencing disruptions at the hands of coronavirus. Options currently on the table in ongoing relief negotiations look at providing relief for both renters and landlords, and I look forward to assessing those measures that will provide the most equitable remedy to both renters and landlords.
Jon Ossoff, U.S. Senate candidate: First of all, the eviction moratorium should have been reauthorized in August. This is another example of Washington and Senator Perdue not caring about ordinary people. If Goldman Sachs stock evaluation started to plummet overnight, the Senate would be working relentlessly and instantly on financial relief for Wall Street. When it’s ordinary people, working families, and small businesses facing eviction or foreclosure or insolvency, the Senate’s doing nothing. No one should go homeless because of a pandemic, particularly when this pandemic has been allowed to spiral out of control by our own incompetent government. And it is important that property owners not face devastating losses while we take extraordinary measures to keep people in their homes. It’s the role of Congress to consider the financial sustainability of property owners while ensuring that no one loses their home due to this pandemic.