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Thousands of renters breathed a sigh of relief when the Federal Government extended the eviction moratorium. Others fear the move only delays a painful reality.

The recent extension on the federal eviction moratorium until at least the end of January will only put a Band-Aid on a looming crisis Payson might weather.

Across the nation, the numbers don’t look good. Some states report a third of their renters are behind on rent because of economic woes linked to the pandemic. This then trickles up to landlords who still have to pay mortgages and property taxes, even if renters can’t pay rent.

National estimates suggest that perhaps 40 million Americans will benefit from the extension of the moratorium on evictions.

But the month-long extension merely postpones the day of reckoning, with the virus still spreading quickly.

Federal officials hope that perhaps 100 million Americans will get vaccinated by March, with the rest of the population lining up for their shot before June or July. But that leaves months of economic problems due to business slowdowns and closures.

However, the national unemployment rate stands at about 6.7%, with 2.3 million more people on the unemployment rolls than before the pandemic. Many other workers have left the workforce because they had to care for a child when their school closed.

Millions of additional workers are working part time or have dropped out of the workforce because they can’t find a job.

Arizona has many people behind on rent who fear eviction soon.

But even before the pandemic hit, Rim Country renters have faced problems finding affordable homes or apartments to rent — leading to chronic problems with evictions and late rent payments for people paying too large a share of their income for rent.

The economic struggles pose major concerns for both renters and landlords, according to comments made by members of the Facebook group, Payson, AZ local community news and chat.

One single mother said she faced eviction because of divorce. She has a job but cannot find an affordable place to rent in the pandemic-fueled real estate market.

Another mother and daughter face a similar threat because the home they rent will soon be sold. They too have jobs but cannot find an affordable place to live.

Sarah Sadler said she has “endured great hardship this year like so many,” but she feels blessed because she has “the most gracious landlord.”

Landlord Lisa Canavier said she seeks to help her struggling tenants by referring them to “organizations that can help” pay the rent, but those organizations are struggling to meet the need.

“The mortgage holders must be paid and are not waiving late fees,” she said.

Payson’s rental market

Payson renters face extra problems due to the region’s housing market.

According to Census data, Payson has more homeowners and fewer renters than the statewide average. Many Rim Country homes are vacation homes, further reducing the supply of workforce housing.

The town also has an older population, with an average age of 55. Retirees have an outside income before they move to town and can plow the equity from a previous home into their down payment on a Payson home. This has the effect of raising home prices for people still in the workforce.

All these factors combine to make it difficult for workers to find affordable housing. Even those working as nurses and teachers struggle to find housing in Payson.

It looked like January would bring a whole new level of pain as a statewide moratorium on evictions expired on Dec. 31. The recent pandemic stimulus bill gives renters another month to catch up on the rent, find a job or find other housing.

The bill will provide some relief through rent, food and another temporary extension of unemployment benefits. Not only does the bill extend the duration of unemployment benefits, it boosts the state’s maximum benefit of $240 a week by $300. The bill also provides extended coverage for part-time and self-employed workers not eligible for benefits under the normal state unemployment system. The bill would extend the extra benefits until March 14, but the delay in signing the bill could produce a one-week gap in benefits.

The Paycheck Protection Program will revive with $15 billion in additional support to keep businesses paying salaries.

Schools, teachers and students will receive billions of dollars so they can open again in the new year. Pre-kindergarten care through Head Start and other child care will receive assistance so parents can go back to work.

Local, state and tribal governments will receive help to bolster budgets hit hard by loss of sales tax and other revenue sources.

Moreover, the latest relief measure includes $600 checks for taxpayers earning up to $75,000, which could also provide money for people to catch up on rent.

Which caused Rosalyn Doherty Deserano to wonder if landlords would consider “holding off evicting until” money from the stimulus bill arrives.

Canavier has paid other people’s rent to help them out. She hopes actions like that help tenants understand that landlords want the best for them.

Gaylin Weber is always “wanting to buy more homes to rent out to full-timers (renters).”

But the prices have gotten so high, she “wouldn’t even break even.”

“I feel this town needs less vacay properties and more affordable, full-time rentals, and would love to help, but there seems no way,” she said.

Lexlie Buscher Oberlin summed the struggle up.

“Landlords are not necessarily ‘rich’ — Just common folk with a place for rent. Renters are in trouble, but so are the owners. Prayers for all.”

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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