Lamonte Goode never thought he’d be in the situation he is now. He says he’s a good tenant. Always respectful, always paid his rent on time, never maxed-out his credit cards, but now his stress level is off the charts because of his debt.
“My rent debt is about $10,000,” Goode said.
He hasn't been able to pay his full rent for months. As an actor and dancer, he’s been scraping by with on-line teaching jobs and digital performances.
“Is it enough money? No, it’s not enough. Not even close,” he said.
“Rent debt” is the amount Goode and hundreds of thousands of others in LA County still owe their landlords.
It never goes away and just continues to grow, even if you’re protected from being evicted by temporary restrictions.
A moratorium on evictions has prevented people like Goode from being kicked out on the street, but that expires at the end of February.
Larry Gross with LA’s Coalition for Economic Survival points to a recent UCLA study, which says 365,000 LA County households are currently at risk for eviction.
“They have good reason to be scared,” Gross said. “Eviction moratoriums, which are still being planned are great, but they don’t address rent debt at all."
Even now with the new administration, the feds have only addressed the immediate problem which is eviction.
“We need to cancel the debt of rent and mortgage, and that can only come on a federal level,” he added.
Rent debt is something that will follow Goode, even if he’s kicked out of his apartment.
“My only option is to go back with my family. Which is really… uh… embarrassing,” Goode said.
Gross says if Goode has that option, he’s lucky. Many don’t and will end up on the streets.
“We’re going to see the homeless increase on steroids,” Goode says.
Housing advocates say the only way out of this mess is to forgive those debts and wipe them off the books using federal funds.
They’re hoping Washington is listening, now that the power structure has changed.