In the latest installment of his “Coronavirus” series of episodes, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver discussed the affordable housing crisis in the U.S. Oliver focused specifically on how the crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19, particularly for those who are facing eviction. As with his other Coronavirus-themed episodes, this one, unfortunately, is quite bleak.
In the episode above, Oliver talks about how evictions have risen since the lockdowns imposed in response to COVID-19 were mandated. He notes “the coronavirus crisis could… soon turn into a full-blown homelessness crisis” at the top of the episode. Adding, “It’s hard to even fathom, something already so bad transforming into something else so appalling.”
Oliver highlights the fact that while there is supposedly a comprehensive, federal plan in place to deal with pandemic-related evictions, it only aims to pause the evictions themselves, not the rent money that’s due by tenants. This, of course, results in people—disproportionately those of color—being saddled with extra debt.
About 50,000 low-income families in L.A. could get rental assistance via a program passed by the City Council today.— Liam Dillon (@dillonliam) June 23, 2020
It's the largest such effort approved by a city nationwide in the wake of the pandemic, but still far short of the potential need https://t.co/pOMG3UEwy1
It’s not all bad news when it comes to the housing crisis, however. Oliver notes that some states, and even a few landlords themselves, are stepping in to help renters when and where they can. Indeed many states have passed rental assistance programs: one recently passed by the Los Angeles City Council, for example, will deliver $100 million in cash assistance to 50,000 low-income families.
Although the help they offer is demonstrably too little and too late in most cases. The result of this, Oliver notes, is a call for drastic rent strikes. Immediately below, for example, is a video of a rent strike that recently took place in New York.
New Yorkers taking to the streets to demand a halt to evictions, and temporary cancellation of rent.— Stephen Punwasi (@StephenPunwasi) June 22, 2020
Most people don’t realize this, but once places that halted evictions resume, mass evictions are expected without rent cancellation. #CancelRent pic.twitter.com/9U4Iz6ID8B
“[W]hile there are clearly no perfect options here, the very worst thing we could do right now, is nothing,” Oliver says as he wraps up the episode. He adds that “every day we fail to act is a day that we’re compounding another future crisis for millions of vulnerable renters and their communities.”
What do you think about this Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode covering the affordable housing crisis and how it’s been impacted by COVID-19? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Feature image: LastWeekTonight