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CNE is partnering with Legal Aid of East Tennessee and local attorneys to provide free legal assistance to those facing eviction during the COVID-19 crisis. Free legal assistance may also be available for other legal issues. Please call 423-756-6271 to leave a voicemail with your name and a phone number where you can be reached.
The Tennessee Supreme Court has allowed for eviction cases to be held starting March 15th. We encourage you to contact the court clerks (423-209-6000) with your docket number to know more about your case and to determine if your previously scheduled court date has changed.
We are conducting intake for individuals seeking legal assistance and rental assistance. If you have a pending court case, an attorney from our program will be in touch with you closer to the re-opening of court and, if you are seeking rental assistance, we can email you a list of resources and organizations that we are aware may be able to help.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent impact on our economy has left many local families questioning whether they can meet their rent payments. A recent Nooga.com article analyzed Household Pulse data and found that an estimated 18,100 renters in Hamilton County are at risk of eviction. Nationally, many predict an eviction crisis for millions of families, a crisis that will negatively impact both renter households and small property owners and landlords.
Evictions are devastating for a family and disruptive and costly for the whole community.
In an effort to mitigate the challenges our community faces, the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga has funded an initiative, The Eviction Prevention Program, that coordinates rent and utility assistance programs of the City of Chattanooga, services from Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE), and legal representation from Legal Aid and local lawyers to reduce the overall number of evictions and significantly reduce the economic cost of the pandemic to tenants, landlords, and our whole community. Social work case management through the Southern University Master of Social Work program may also be available for some clients to help ensure families’ longer-term housing stability.
We thank our partners and funders from across the city for their collaborative efforts in the Eviction Protection Program. If you are interested in donating to the Homelessness Prevention Fund, please write a check to Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise with the memo line: Homelessness Prevention Fund. Your donation will be utilized by the project’s attorneys to help negotiate positive outcomes for tenant households facing eviction.
Why do tenants get evicted?
Nationally and locally, most evictions happen due to non-payment of rent, which is often the result of economic vulnerabilites. For families who are rent-burdened, meaning that 30% or more of their income goes to housing costs, a single crisis could mean that they are unable to meet their rent obligations. The COVID-19 pandemic has further destabilized many of these families through job loss, lack of child care, and quarantine for those exposed to the virus. As a result, we are facing a wave of evictions nationally that will increase homelessness and disrupt the lives of tenants and landlords alike. At a time when having a safe place to quarantine is critical, an increasing number of families are finding themselves at risk of homelessness.
What are the impacts of an eviction?
Being evicted can lead to homelessness, prevent access to public housing, and impact credit and finances such that families are forced to accept worse and even dangerous housing conditions in less safe neighborhoods. Beyond the highly disruptive short-term impacts of an eviction, evictions have long-lasting effects on households’ financial and emotional well-being, as well as access to future opportunities.
Who is impacted by eviction?
Though a diverse range of households face eviction every year, some households are disproportionately more likely to face eviction. Low-income women, and especially low-income women of color and/or with children, are far more likely than other groups to be evicted (Eviction Lab SITE). A recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that 21% of respondents had already missed a rent payment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic or had little to no confidence in their ability to make their next payment; among Latino and Black respondents, that number jumped to 44% and 41%, respectively. COVID-19 has also exacerbated the difficulties that low-income families face such as lack of access to paid maternity leave, paid sick leave, health insurance, and childcare. These vulnerabilities mean that these households are often one crisis away from facing an eviction.
Beyond the households who are evicted, eviction impacts the whole community. Increased homelessness as a result of eviction means that local governments have to spend more on homeless services, and local businesses are impacted when their employees no longer have stable housing. Children in evicted households often face disruptions to their schooling that can have long-term impacts. As a community, we’re stronger and more stable when we ensure that our neighbors are stably housed.
How widespread is eviction?
In Tennessee in 2016, almost 20,000 households were evicted — that’s 53 households per day. In Chattanooga the same year, 272 households were evicted. Since the beginning of the COVID-19, we have seen an increase in the number of eviction filings across the nation, and experts believe that we are facing a looming eviction crisis. A 2017 study showed that a quarter of our city’s renters are paying 50% or more of their income on rent. These severely rent-burdened households are especially vulnerable to the disruptive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As renters feel the impacts of the end of the federal eviction moratorium and the expiration of unemployment benefits, the situation for economically vulnerable residents becomes increasingly dire.
What are we doing as a community to prevent eviction?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise has partnered with the Legal Aid of East Tennessee, private attorneys, and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to provide legal representation to households facing eviction.