PHOENIX – Housing advocacy groups in Arizona have joined lawmakers in lobbying Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his coronavirus-related moratorium on evictions, which will expire next week and allow authorities to start removing hundreds of renters in a state that's a national hot spot for both infections and scorching summer weather.
“It’s so hot in Arizona, you cannot live outside if you lose your home,” said Meghan Heddings, executive director of Family Housing Resources in Tucson, which is among the groups advocating for an extension. “And, of course, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.”
States from Nevada to Virginia also have recently lifted or are about to end moratoriums on rent payments and foreclosures designed to get people through the pandemic and its economic fallout. Pennsylvania recently announced it will extend its moratorium until the end of August, while Boston will keep its ban on most public housing evictions until the end of the year.
Arizona's 120-day order ending July 22 was supposed to ensure people wouldn't lose their homes if they got COVID-19 or lost their jobs during pandemic restrictions. But advocates say it's too early to end the ban because most of the government money set aside to help pay rents and mortgages still hasn't been doled out.
Meanwhile, virus cases in Arizona keep rising, with 3,257 new infections and 97 more deaths reported Wednesday. Arizona leads the U.S. in new confirmed cases per capita over the past two weeks.
Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey, said Wednesday the governor is working with all parties on a policy to protect renters and keep them in their homes. Ptak said an announcement is expected later this week.
Unless the Republican governor extends or otherwise modifies his eviction moratorium, court officers can force out people temporarily allowed to stop paying rent after falling ill with COVID-19 or losing their jobs because of the pandemic. It's unknown how many people facing eviction already moved out voluntarily.
Family Housing Resources and more than a dozen other groups noted in a letter to Ducey last week that the Arizona Housing Department has a backlog of people trying to get rental assistance. About $4 million of $5 million allocated in March to help people struggling because of the virus has still not been distributed.