PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the workforce, leaving thousands of Virginians struggling to make rent and mortgage payments.
With protections and relief programs in place, people are getting by, but the pandemic has created more uncertainty in the rental market.
According to U.S. Census data, nearly 40% of homes in Hampton Roads are occupied by renters, however, we’re also told available rentals are in short supply.
“We’re seeing a huge shortage in the rental market as well for two reasons. Single-family landlords are in droves leaving the market and putting their houses on the market. They’re selling it at crazy, high prices right now,” said Patti Robertson, founder of the Hampton Roads Landlord Association. “The people who are buying them are people who are going to live in them which means that single-family house is now coming off the rent inventory permanently so it’s no longer available for a tenant.”
As many people lost their jobs, state and federal leaders implemented eviction moratoriums, halting evictions for non-payment stemming from financial hardships due to the pandemic.
State and federal funding also helped Virginians to stay housed.
“If they’re in the street, they may be long-term homeless and that creates all kinds of problems,” said Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Newport News).
Scott said that’s the scenario state and federal leaders sought to avoid when the pandemic began over a year ago.
Data from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development shows more than $138,779,000 has been dispersed in rent and mortgage relief payments. That grant money has helped 28,375 households throughout Virginia.
“We definitely didn’t want to see anybody on the streets during COVID,” said Esther Davilmar.
Davilmar is a landlord who received some grant money to help make mortgage payments when one of her tenants couldn’t make rent. However, Davilmar said the eviction moratorium created another headache.
“In the beginning, it was late or partial payment until it came with just no payment,” Davilmar said. “She told the property management ‘There’s nothing you guys can do. You can’t kick me out of the home.'”
Davilmar hasn’t received payment from that tenant since November.
“As a landlord, our hands are being tied by the government,” said Patti Robertson.
Robertson also owns a property management company. She said many landlords are dealing with similar situations.
“The message that’s gotten through to the public is that you just don’t have to pay your rent,” Robertson said. “Landlords are in a bind unless they can get their tenants to participate and apply for the grant.”
Robertson told 10 On Your Side the uncertainty with a tenant’s ability to pay rent plus the booming real estate market has many property owners opting to sell their homes instead of leasing them.
“A big percentage of the single-family homes are being removed right now from the rental market and they’ll be gone forever,” she said.
Robertson said that will likely have long-term effects in Hampton Roads.
“We’re going to have a shortage of rentals for a long time I’m afraid, which is only going to hurt tenants because it causes prices to go up,” she said.
Despite the setbacks from the moratorium, we’re told the many tenants are applying for rental relief if they need it.
Scott told 10 On Your Side it’s been a life-saver for families.
“All of the studies show that if you can get over the hump and stay in your house, the likelihood of you being there a year later [is] much greater than if you are put out in the street and try to get back in,” he said.
Davilmar said she’s hopeful the situation will turn around sooner than later.
“The pandemic was something that nobody could expect. I’m hoping that we can get back to normal sometime soon,” Davilmar said.
The eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of June.
If you’re a renter or landlord affected by the pandemic, you can find links for assistance here.
For more information on tenant and landlord resources, click here.