TOLEDO, Ohio — We're one day closer to what some experts are forecasting as a housing crisis.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, evictions could consume housing courts across the nation and right here at home.
It's a grim outlook for renters, many of whom are struggling financially during the pandemic-prompted economic downturn.
The July 25 end date of a federal eviction moratorium is fast approaching, but that only applies to federally-subsidized housing anyway.
In Toledo, eviction filings were never halted.
Judge Joseph Howe sits on Toledo's housing court bench and says luckily, we have seen just half of the average number of evictions from past years.
"It's actually been down quite a bit, which is a good thing and actually is what I was hoping would occur," Howe told WTOL 11 Wednesday.
But experts warn we aren't yet in the clear.
"I don't disagree with it being described as a tsunami or an avalanche," Toledo Fair Housing president and CEO Marie Flannery told WTOL 11 in an interview.
The Aspen Institute — a non-profit Washington think tank — estimates 20 million renters are at risk of eviction amid the pandemic.
In Toledo, the Fair Housing Center says nearly half of all occupied units are rented and 51% of renters are considered cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
"That's why housing advocates, including the Fair Housing Center, have really been advocating for not just moratoriums but also financial assistance," said Sarah Jenkins, director of public policy at the Fair Housing Center.
The city of Toledo recently rolled out a renter's assistance program, which Flannery and Jenkins said is a big help. Howe agreed but argued it's simply not enough.
"To avoid a huge nationwide housing crisis that could occur, I think the federal government would have to come in and assist not only tenants but the homeowners and landowners as well," Howe said.
It's unclear if that will ever happen. But what is clear is the outlook if evictions start to pile up.
"So we'd be looking at hearing dates probably in September-ish, October, and that's right when flu season starts," Flannery said. "And we're still dealing with COVID. So we're potentially looking at a lot of people being evicted right at the very worst possible time."
There are some ways to get help.
The Fair Housing Center started a landlord-tenant mediation program. It is free for Lucas County residents.
The organization also has a list of resources and renters' rights on its website.
WTOL 11 also reached out to Gov. Mike DeWine's office about this issue. A spokesperson said the governor will address this at an upcoming briefing.