As federal protections end, Nashville nonprofits see spike in renters looking for help

Posted at 8:30 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 06:27:29-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new study says hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans are at risk of being evicted after federal renter protections expired last week.

On Friday, a federal moratorium on evictions expired. The renter protection was part of the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress to help those financially impacted by COVID-19.

The study, from financial advisory firm Stout, says 400,000 Tennesseans are unable to pay their rent, and 52% of renters across the state are at risk of being evicted - the third-highest rate in the country behind Mississippi and Louisiana.

"People can't afford rent here plain and simple," India Pungarcher of Open Table Nashville said.

Advocates said the economic impacts of the pandemic has worsened Nashville's existing affordable housing problem. In June, Tennessee's unemployment rate was 9.7%.

"The reality is we just do not have enough affordable housing units, we don't have sufficient affordable housing stock in Nashville, this isn't a new problem, it's been around for a long time," Pungarcher said.

Open Table Nashville is a nonprofit that aims to help the area's homeless communities. Workers said as the eviction moratorium expiration got closer, demand for help surged.

"We've seen a spike in requests for rental assistance at this time, I think people are trying to piece together resources to try and stay in their home any way they can," Pungarcher said.

Now the nonprofit worries that many are at risk of entering the cycle of homelessness.

"If they don't have a support system, and that could look like family or friends, or just really logistical ability to navigate the resources in Nashville, that first eviction may be the event that pushes them into homelessness for the first time."

Several local organizations provide rent and utility assistance along with other resources for people struggling because of the pandemic: