Help available for hanging on to homes

The economic downturn caused by the pandemic has created widespread housing insecurity for renters and homeowners, but free or low-cost legal assistance and other support can help people remain in their homes.

By the end of 2020, up to 40 million U.S. renters – 80 percent of them blacks and Hispanics — may face eviction, according to research from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.

While the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an eviction moratorium until the end of 2020, tenants must still be proactive. According to the National Housing Law Project, they should:

  • Contact their landlord as soon as they know they won’t be able to make a rent payment.
  • Gather documentation. Retain all correspondence and receipts from landlords. Be sure to document phone calls and in-person conversations.
  • Seek out community services for rental relief, food, and healthcare. United Way, Washington 2-1-1 and are among starting points.
  • Seek legal assistance, including free legal aid. An estimated 90 percent of landlords have legal representation, compared to only 10 percent of tenants, according to Harvard University researchers. In Pierce and King counties, sources of assistance include the Northwest Justice Project ( and 206-464-1519).

Housing insecurity is a particular issue in communities beyond urban centers. According to Partners for Rural Transformation, of the 395 counties with persistent poverty in the U.S., eight out of 10 are rural and the majority of people living in them are people of color.

“The economic challenges caused by COVID-19 are putting a spotlight on the most vulnerable communities, which have been disproportionately affected by job losses, under-employment and housing instability,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy with the Wells Fargo Foundation. The foundation has provided more than 1,200 grants to non-profit organizations that, among other things, provide legal assistance for renters at risk for eviction due to the pandemic. The grants support work to keep people housed through services and advocacy efforts.

“Housing instability is a problem that must change. Home is a sanctuary. Having a safe and affordable place to call home is an essential pathway for wellness, dignity, and economic opportunity,” Fitzgerald said.


Source: StatePoint Media