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Missouri professor discusses limits of federal eviction moratorium

Michelle Smirnova, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, told Hill.TV that many Americans still risk becoming homeless during the coronavirus pandemic despite a federal moratorium.

Smirnova said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s regulations limiting evictions only apply to those resulting from a tenant not paying rent in Department of Housing and Urban Development-supported units, meaning state and local governments must decide whether to extend the moratorium further.

“Housing insecurity, many people experience this as a personal issue – ‘I’m not able to make my rent, therefore I am individually responsible’ – as opposed to seeing this as a public issue and something that many people are experiencing,” she said.

The anti-eviction group KC Tenants has been organizing protests against hundreds of evictions in the middle of the winter. Smirnova said the Jackson County court system, which includes Kansas City, did not expand the moratorium to include all evictions.

“That’s part of the reason why you hear about evictions continuing in many parts of the country," Smirnova said. "While there has been some decline in evictions, these evictions continue to happen.”

She said KC Tenants has been filing petitions with landlords, suing landlords for providing uninhabitable conditions and disrupting eviction courts to prevent tenants and families from being thrown “onto the street."

“It’s violence,” she said. “It’s disrupting someone’s life. Where can they go, especially during the pandemic?”