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Housing advocates fear thousands of Marylanders could lose their homes in 'eviction tsunami'

Posted at 9:41 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 23:12:53-04

BALTIMORE — A coalition of housing advocacy organizations is calling on Maryland lawmakers to pass emergency legislation to prevent thousands of families from losing their homes.

Advocates with Renters United Maryland say an “eviction tsunami” could soon be a reality with more than 100,000 pending eviction cases expected to move forward.

“The looming threat of evictions is real and we cannot toy around with semantics to believe it is not a real crisis happening right now in our state,” said Zafar Shah who is with the Public Justice Center.

More than 3,000 families have already lost their home since August 2020, Shah said. This is despite orders from the state and CDC to halt evictions during the pandemic. The CDC’s order is set to expire on March 31st.

“Increasingly we are seeing right now, landlords who are receiving federal bailout money are going forward with evictions,” Shah said.

The group is urging State Senate President Bill Ferguson and other lawmakers to quickly pass Senate Bill 910, which would require landlords to use rental assistance before seeking eviction. It will also prohibit landlords who received relief money from evicting their tenant without cause for at least 120 days.

“It is not unreasonable to expect that we would use the 800 million dollars that has come to Maryland to provide for rental assistance to ask landlord to take that money to continue to keep people housed just for the emergency, “ said Molly Amster with Jews United for Justice

The state legislature is also considering other housing bills that would provide additional protections for renters, including a right to counsel in all eviction cases.

The legislative session ends in less than three weeks.

Sen. Ferguson sent us a statement, saying “the Senate of Maryland is working diligently on this critical issue, and we are determined to pass legislation before adjourning at the end of Session.”