The impact of COVID-19 seems to be encroaching into all areas of life, so it’s no wonder issues about housing are following suit.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development suspended all foreclosures and eviction through at least the end of April amid the coronavirus pandemic. While the local impact is still unclear, it will likely have a trickle-down effect in Tallapoosa County.
“HUD does not have jurisdictional authority over local and state evictions, so this will become more of an individual housing authority response,” Alexander City Housing Authority executive director Donna Gabel said. “We certainly understand that some of our tenants may have their incomes reduced during this time period. If companies shut down or people are laid off during this time, we will work with each tenant. We’re not going to evict them.”
For the most part though, housing leases are deliberated between the landlord and the tenant, so the housing authority has no responsibility over that.
“My hope would be landlords would take into consideration extenuating circumstances going on right now,” Gabel said. “Whether they can’t pay rent right this month -— and for a lot of low-income families that is huge — I hope landlords take this to heart. This is not a situation anybody asked for or did anything to bring on.”
Lake Martin Landlord Association president Tony Goss said he doesn’t feel this new mandate will impact him much.
“I don’t think it will affect a lot,” Goss said. “I’ve heard some talk about this, but I really don’t have a lot to say on the topic. The eviction process may be delayed, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen.”
On the flip side, if there are health and safety concerns amid tenants, Gabel said the housing authority will continue to take normal actions.
Gabel said Alexander City Housing Authority stays full and maintains a waiting list of more than 100 at any given time, so if someone becomes newly impacted financially, housing wouldn’t be readily available.
“We don’t really anticipate anybody moving during this time period,” Gabel said.
Any evictions already in cycle could possibly continue, Gabel said, but she made it clear the housing authority is not going to evict someone who can’t pay rent due to circumstances of COVID-19.
It’s not merely rentals that are being impacted but local real estate agents are feeling the pinch as well.
“Agents are small business owners and self-employed,” Lake Martin Area Association of Realtors association executive Tina Parker said. “It will have an impact on them but how serious it will be is still hard to tell.”
The double-edged sword of real estate is fewer people are willing to list their homes right now because they’re concerned with traffic. On the flipside, buyers have a lot of time on their hands and wanting to get out to look at properties but there are none to look at, Parker said.
“We’re already low on inventory as it is and we should be hitting peak season for the lake,” Park said. “We’re going to struggle because we don’t have the inventory available for buyers.”
If effects of the coronavirus slow fairly quickly, things could simply shift back in a month, according to Park.
“They still have the opportunity to make their living for the year,” Park said. “Realtors are pretty resilient. They know there are peaks and valleys in the market, so they’re smart and plan ahead.”
GW Warren with Aronov Realty said he’s still seen plenty of activity but things could change quickly.
“I don’t know what it’ll end up being like in the next two weeks,” Warren said. “Sure, we’ll see some changes. People are losing money; second homes go by the wayside when that happens. We’re going to have to wait and see.”
In terms of precautionary measures, the LMAAR’s agents are following CDC guidelines, allowing only one person in a house showing at a time and stocking hand sanitizer, gloves and masks on site.
“It’s slowed down to such an extent because everyone is taking precautionary measures,” Park said. “Even houses on the market, owners have called and wanted to put showings on hold for a period of time. The realtors in our area will honor any request and be good stewards. We don’t want to aid and abet the spreading of the virus.”