Eviction Restriction Showdown

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S1: This is a word, a podcast from Slate, I’m your host, Jason Johnson. Millions of Americans crushed by the economic fallout of the Covid crisis also face the threat of Eviction. This week, the Biden administration extended the Eviction moratorium after months of protest, pressure and pleading from advocates like former HUD Secretary Julián Castro.

S2: The consequences of our policy decisions like this are bigger than just where somebody sleeps from one night to the next

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S1: Julián Castro on solving the Eviction crisis and more coming up on a word with me, Jason Johnson.

S3: Stay with us.

S1: This is a word, a podcast from Slate, I’m your host, Jason Johnson. As the Covid crisis sickened or killed millions of Americans, it also pushed many of the most vulnerable citizens out of work and into economic desperation. Register for their jobs, disappear or hours cut face Eviction and the health consequences of becoming homeless during a pandemic. After much debate and what some activists see as foot dragging on the part of the by the administration, the president finally extended the Eviction moratorium this week, meaning that more Americans will be able to stay in their homes. One of the people responsible for turning up the heat on the Eviction issue is Julián Castro. He’s the former mayor of San Antonio, the former housing and urban development secretary in the Obama administration, and a 20 20 presidential candidate. He’s now the host of the Hour America podcast Julián Castro joins us now. Welcome to a word.

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S2: Hey, it’s great to be with you, Jason. What are your

S1: thoughts about the extension of the Eviction moratorium? Secretary Castro, does the language include everything you hope for? Do you think it’s too late? What do you think of the decision that came down from the administration this week?

S2: Well, it’s definitely a positive step. What the administration has done is basically say, OK, look, we’re not going to extend a nationwide Eviction moratorium through the CDC. Instead, what we’re going to do is say where you have covid hot spots, places where the Delta variant especially is surging. Now, the Eviction moratorium will apply there. They say that that covers about 90 percent of Americans. So, look, that’s a very positive step. Do I wish that it covered everybody? Yeah, I do, because there are a lot of people, those other 10 percent of Americans in places where Covid is not necessarily surging, but where we could see a quick uptick within a matter of days or a week or so. But either way, still a lot of people that are facing Eviction, no matter where they are, in a time when a lot of people are still recovering economically because of the pandemic, quite separate and apart from the situation on the ground with Covid right now, 90 percent of Americans is a lot of Americans. I wish we could get to all of the Americans. So there is some still unfinished business.

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S1: Secretary Castra, one of the things that is probably strange to a lot of observers is it seemed like for a long time there was almost like this circular firing squad. Right. The Biden administration said, yeah, Congress needs to do it. And Congress is like, well, actually the Biden administration needs to do it. And then someone’s like, well, actually, it’s the CBC’s job. Were you frustrated? I mean, you’ve been in an administration before. Were you frustrated seeing for weeks, in some levels, months, multiple federal agencies all claiming that they couldn’t do anything about this problem?

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S2: Yeah, it was crazy. I mean, you had, as you say, the administration pointing their finger at Congress, then pointing their finger back within the administration. The word was, well, it’s really the CBC’s decision, but the president is asking them to go back and rethink what they’re doing. There was a lot of back and forth. And in the meantime, you know that what we’re talking about is a policy that affects a lot of the most vulnerable Americans out. There are people that are already living on the edge, people that, in fact, are more likely to have experienced covid or have a family member that does more vulnerable in general in our health care system, our education system, our employment system. And so the stakes were very high. This was a rare for this administration, I think, dropping of the ball early on. Now, to their credit, they have come back. And as I said, it’s a very, very positive thing. They’ve done the amended moratorium, but it shouldn’t have taken all the way until the day before or two days before the Eviction moratorium was going to expire for them to make a push with Congress to say, hey, look, this really should be extended. And in the meantime, really to extend it themselves the way they have, it never should have lapsed in the first place.

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S1: What exactly does the Eviction moratorium do? Does it just mean, hey, if I haven’t paid my rent, I have a couple more months to do it? Do I just have to pay a percentage of my rent? And what does it do? If you are a property owner? If you’re a property owner and your tenants aren’t paying rent, is there any sort of protection for you? What’s actually with the actual mechanics of how an eviction moratorium works?

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S2: The CDC put an eviction moratorium in place under the auspices of public health. That because of these unique circumstances with covid-19 pandemic, in order to protect the public health, it made sense not to have people thrown out into the street, basically evicted. The moratorium itself, you can think of it like cover. It basically provides cover and says, look, you’re not going to be kicked out of your home, your apartment. It addresses renters. Homeowners are a different. If they have a mortgage, there were protections that were put in place through the FHA and FAA and through people working with their banks, that essentially allowed for forbearance for people that have a mortgage here with the Eviction moratorium, we’re talking specifically about renters. So it provided cover, it provided a blanket and said you cannot actually evict somebody from this point in time until this point in time. The CDC had extended that Eviction moratorium three times previously based on the conditions in our country with covid-19 the fact that we still weren’t over this pandemic completely. And now there’s a fourth extension, although it looks different from the other ones because it’s not a fully nationwide extension. It’s important that the other side of the equation is, in the meantime, that Congress allocated forty seven billion dollars of rental assistance for renters to be able to avail themselves of funds, people who are behind on rent. And by one count, we had about twenty three billion dollars of back rent, with the average renter owing thirty eight hundred dollars in back rent. Just to give you a sense of how dire the circumstance is for a lot of people, for thirty eight hundred dollars for most people, I mean, they do not have it right that you might as well ask them for a million dollars. So these funds that were granted out to the states and from the states into localities were meant to provide a bridge so that people would have the resources they need. The problem was the problem has been that only about seven percent of those funds have actually been allocated. In many ways, it’s been government living up to the worst reputation. Look, I’m somebody who believes in the power of government to do good, to help people, to make things better. But we have to acknowledge that sometimes you do have examples where there’s too much red tape. They make the application too difficult, too cumbersome. There’s not enough outreach, especially in vulnerable communities that can be hard to reach anyway. And for those reasons and others, I’m sure the system has been subpar by far. So a lot of the pressure for extending this moratorium has come from both the fact that we’ve seen a surge in the coronavirus. But then also, hey, these funds are still out there and they’re not getting to the people that actually need them. Finally, with regard to landlords, these funds do get into the hands of landlords. These funds are paid to landlords. Most of the ways that the programs are structured are that they go oftentimes directly to the landlords. On top of that, there’s other assistance for landlords. For instance, many of them who may have a note on a building may get forbearance themselves through a federal program or through their bank. So it’s important to note that especially for a lot of these mom and pop landlords who may own a single family home or a duplex or a fourplex, you know, not everybody is a big corporation. Many of these these mom and pop landlords, there were also protections and assistance put in place for them.

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S1: We’re going to take a short break. When we come back, more with Julián Castro. This is a word with Jason Johnson. Stay tuned. Did you know you could be listening to this show, ad free, all it takes is a slate plus membership. It’s just one dollar for the first month and it helps support our show. Plus, it lets you hear all Slate podcast without ads and read unlimited articles on the Slate site without ever hitting a paywall. So sign up now for Slate plus at Slate Dotcom. Again, a word plus that slate. Dotcom, a word plus. Listening to a word with Jason Johnson today, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro is speaking with us about the Eviction crisis. So we’ve talked about the politics of this. But this is something, Secretary, that I think a lot of people may not understand when it comes to Eviction. If you get evicted one time, certainly earlier in your life, it can have like long term consequences because every other place that you try to rent is going to ask you, have you been evicted? It can affect your credit. It can affect the other places you live. It can result, you know, if you get evicted once as a twenty four year old because you lost your job for a couple of months, it means the next place you go to may not be as nice. Can you talk a little bit about what the long term implications are of millions of Americans being evicted in mass? If we don’t make sure that programs like this last all the way throughout this crisis?

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S2: I think the most important thing is we know from social science research that housing is foundational. It is the key to stability in people’s lives. If you have a safe, decent, affordable place to live, a child is more likely to be able to get a decent education, focus on their schooling. Somebody is more likely to be able to hold on to a job or get a job in the first place. Your health is better if you have a safe, decent, affordable place to live, which makes sense. And it’s true. So it’s foundational. It’s the key to a better quality of life across the board. You’re also right that there’s a domino effect here, a domino effect to potentially personal ruin. Somebody gets evicted, their credit is ruined. They’re not going to be able to get an apartment because that next apartment manager or leasing manager that’s looking at their applications sees on their credit record that they were evicted. And that’s a huge red flag in a market that is often hot, where they have multiple applicants and they don’t they don’t need to take this kind of risk in their eyes. It also makes it harder to access credit in the future if somebody is trying to build up to be able to buy a home, for instance, access to credit for vulnerable communities is already a huge problem. It becomes even harder if you have an Eviction on your record, not to mention the the question of where people go once they are evicted. If they’re lucky, they end up being able to find a place. But the fact is that we had a rental affordability crisis well before this pandemic. Rents were spiking everywhere just about, and it was difficult to find a place in the first place. People end up doubling up with relatives or at a friend’s apartment or some people sleep in their vehicles. So, I mean, it has this cascading effect toward personal ruin. And we need to remember that that especially during this pandemic, but any time in our country, the consequences of our policy decisions like this are bigger than just where somebody sleeps from one night to the next. They often have years long negative effects or positive effects if we get it right on people’s lives.

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S1: Secretary Castro, when the power grid went out in Texas and hundreds of thousands of people were without power and many people had to go out and try to find places to stay, look for clean water, attempted to find hotels to stay in that were gouging them on prices. It’s almost like Texas had a dry run for the Eviction crisis that we’re facing now. How well do you think the leadership has learned anything from the winter storm crisis? And do you think they’ll be prepared for the consequences when this Eviction moratorium does eventually run out?

S2: Texas leadership has failed Texans in so many different ways from not being able to maintain the power grid, even though we’ve seen a preview of this ten years earlier in twenty eleven. And state leadership had been warned about the need to require investment so that this kind of thing wouldn’t happen again. Our grid wouldn’t fail. They didn’t do that and it did fail again spectacularly. But you know, Texas, the leadership here, Republican leadership has long prided itself in being a low tax, low social services regime. And what that’s meant is that we have more people without health insurance, a higher rate of lack of health insurance than any other state, including children. We have a lot of people who have lost their homes, lost their apartments during the winter storm or during the economic recession and then during this pandemic. So, yeah, I mean, it’s it’s a poster child in many ways and what not to do celebrates these wins, which are wins in one sense of having investment come in to places like Austin or some other communities and creating jobs that are well-paying for folks that are going to go make one hundred thousand dollars, two hundred thousand dollars. But at the same time, there’s a growing underclass of people who are not well-educated because the schools are failing them, who are not healthy, because the health care system here doesn’t serve them well. They haven’t expanded Medicaid, for instance, and who are increasingly homeless, unable to access safe, decent, affordable housing. We’re going to take

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S1: a short break. When we come back, more with Julián Castro on the Eviction crisis. This is a word with Jason Johnson. Stay tuned. You’re listening to a word with Jason Johnson today, we’re talking with former HUD secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro about the Eviction crisis, so. This is an interesting question that I think you are uniquely capable of talking about, you were part of the Obama administration, which, you know, established a democratic practice of building a new coalition to win presidential elections. And most analysts say now, look, in order to win for a Democrat, you got to get young people. You got to get brown people, you got to get black people. You got to get all these different kinds of people involved to get elected. And yet when it comes to issues like housing, when it comes to issues like 15 dollar minimum wage, when it comes to issues like health care and a lot of instances, critics say that, well, this coalition came together to get Biden into office, but he’s been slow in addressing the issues of the community that got him in. What do you think about that criticism? And if Biden were to pick up the phone and call you right now, which he probably should, what would you tell him he needs to do to make sure that he keeps that coalition of young, brown and black people that put him in office still engaged?

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S2: Well, you know, I would compliment him on getting the American rescue plan done. I would compliment the work that they’ve done to get this infrastructure deal done. And the important part of that is the reconciliation package that will come along with it. There’s no question that those will be big wins for, you know, even the most vulnerable communities and for communities of color. I’d also say that there’s a political reckoning that is coming and his administration very soon, because I feel like whether it’s the issue of. Climate or reimagining, policing or immigration, that there were expectations in this coalition that we would also see progress on these issues. And what it feels like is that the administration has has embraced this notion that previous administrations have that you can only get one thing done at a time. And I just didn’t see it that way. I think that we’re in a very different time right now, people, and especially after Trump, people almost expect that you’re going to go full throated, right. For your agenda. Exactly. Exactly. Because that’s what they that’s what folks saw Trump do now. I didn’t like his agenda was like a lot of other people was raising my voice to do what I could to say we’re going in the wrong direction. But Biden has the opportunity to not only get big things done in infrastructure, but big things done in raising that minimum wage and fighting climate change and doing justice for immigrants in our country and making sure that what happened to George Floyd doesn’t happen again. So the question is, OK, when are you going to get it done? And the problem for the Bush administration is time is running out. I mean, somebody that’s just looking at it says, oh, well, look, this is just the first year of his administration. Yeah, but politics being politics, the closer you get to these midterms, you know, people politicians start to get more and more cautious. Congress is going to be more and more difficult to get anything to move in. And it gets less and less likely that you’re going to be able to make the big kind of change that was promised on the campaign trail. That’s what he’s facing now. I also know that it’s not just up to the president, it’s it’s up to congressional leaders. It’s up to the movement. They’ve got him there to to keep pushing and to make these things happen, to not take no for an answer. I mean, what Corey Bush did recently, her activism out there, sleeping on the steps along with some of her colleagues, to keep pushing the White House to extend this Eviction moratorium. I think that’s the spirit that we all have to have now. I think pushing Congress probably a lot harder than pushing the administration, but we need to be pushing on things like that, on setting aside the filibuster, getting voting rights done, addressing these other issues that are important to the everyday lives of so many people that are part of that coalition and just Americans in general, whatever their stripe.

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S1: I want to follow up on that. I mean, you live in a state that as much as people talk about Georgia being ground zero for voting rights, I mean, the entire Democratic caucus had to flee your state in order to go plead to Congress. Can you please do something about voting rights? Are you frustrated with individuals in the House and Senate? Are you frustrated with the administration because you basically have an entire state Republican apparatus that seems like it’s trying to shut down one county and Texas itself would be significantly more competitive electorally if this administration got something done with voting rights?

S2: Well, this is a five alarm fire. The fact that these Texas legislators had to flee the state, had to leave the state to break quorum. And I feel like. There’s not that same sense of urgency in important places. You’re after the infrastructure deal was tentatively put together, it was written up that the Biden administration had had something like three hundred meetings with Congress working on pushing for advocating for ironing out the deal. I mean, I’d like to see three hundred meetings pushing and advocating for and getting the deal done on voting rights and on the other side of it, because I know that it takes at least two to tango on the Senate side. I respect Senator Manchin a lot, but we’re in a new political reality, the Republican Party of Donald Trump is not the old Republican Party. They’re not going to magically agree to give up their scheme to suppress the votes of people that they don’t believe are supportive of them, especially black and brown communities. They’re not going to have a come to Jesus moment where they suddenly think that it’s good to expand voting rights and protect access to the ballot box, at least no time soon. And so I see it as naive to believe that you’re going to get up to 60 votes, you need to set aside the filibuster and that’s just staring at him plain as day. And unless his willingness. To set aside the filibuster changes in the hopes of getting something significant, significant, done are dim. Having said that, I mean, they’re going to keep working right and be creative. And if there’s anybody who understands the legislative process and being creative with it and shepherding it, it’s Joe Biden.

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S1: I want to close with this because I always think this is important. We we are in a country that is always in need of new leadership and creative dynamic outside and inside the box thinkers, you know, twenty, twenty four is far off there. Senate races. Do you have any future statewide or national political aspirations? You know, what do you do? You know what the next steps for former Secretary Castro might be? Or you just primarily now focused on being a fantastic broadcaster.

S2: He had, you know, look, in all honesty, I will probably run again for office at some point. But right now, I’m not sure when that will be. I don’t feel an itch right now to run. I feel like I just went through this marathon of the twenty twenty campaign. I’ve had the opportunity now in these last six months, if there’s been a silver lining of the pandemic for me and my family, it’s been that I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot more time with them. And so I’ve enjoyed that. I’m going to keep using my voice as I can to support candidates and issues that are important. But for right now, I’m not running for anything and I’m OK with that. You know, I lost the race for mayor when I was thirty years old and sat out for a few years. And I was surprised at that time that I didn’t miss it the way that I thought that I would. And right now, I guess I watch a lot of it and and follow it a lot of a lot of it. Enough that I don’t miss it. Yeah, but but I also have a heart for public service. I guess I got that from my mom who was an activist. And so at some point I’ll probably jump back in.

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S1: Julián Castro is a former San Antonio Mayor US housing secretary and presidential candidate. He’s also the host of the Hour America podcast. Thank you very much for joining us out of work.

S2: Thanks for having me. Jason.

S1: And that’s a word for this week. The show’s email is a word at Slate Dotcom. This episode was produced by Ahyiana Angel and Jasmine Ellis. Aisha Solutia is the managing producer of podcasts Slate. Gabriel Roth is Slate’s editorial director for audio. Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of podcasts at Slate. June Thomas is senior managing producer of the Slate podcast Network. Our theme music was produced by Don Will. I’m Jason Johnson. Tune in next week for word.