From the Star Ledger:
N.J. could soon face a historic housing crisis. A city devastated by COVID-19 might be the epicenter.
Thousands of families forced from their homes. Homelessness at historic levels. A city already devastated by COVID-19 facing yet another crisis.
Newark is on the brink of a housing emergency — hastened by the coronavirus — that could have cascading effects across New Jersey.
More than 14,000 eviction cases are pending in Essex County court — most of them thought to involve Newark tenants — delayed because evictions have been suspended during the pandemic under Gov. Phil Murphy’s emergency order.
But as more people get vaccinated and the state climbs out of the devastation wrought by the pandemic, Newark and other cities could be plunged into an eviction crisis they’re not prepared to face.
“Unless there is something systemically done to address this overwhelming backlog and imminent avalanche (of evictions), I do not think things are going to be back to normal,” said Khabirah Myers, a lawyer in Newark’s Office of Tenant Legal Services. “We’re going to see potential homelessness at historic levels.”
The problem is not confined to Newark. A staggering number of New Jersey residents could be thrown out of their housing unless substantial funding is earmarked for rental assistance for tenants who have fallen behind on rent and evictions are further delayed, experts say.
Around 60,000 evictions are pending across the state, data from the state judiciary shows. Matt Shapiro, president of the New Jersey Tenants Association, said those likely represent only a fraction of evictions that will be filed once the moratorium ends.
“Most landlords haven’t filed evictions because of the lockout moratorium,” Shapiro said. “If we don’t do something, you’re going to see 200,000, 300,000 pending evictions.”