Real estate CEO says ‘a little bit of humanity’ is needed as concerns over evictions rise

KEY POINTS
  • A real estate brokerage CEO told CNBC that flexibility and understanding is needed as concerns rise over the possibility of a wave of evictions linked to the coronavirus.
  • “We have to apply a little bit of humanity in this environment because we are all in this storm, but not everybody is in the same boat,” Bess Freedman of Brown Harris Stevens said on “Power Lunch.”
  • Freedman said she hopes to see policymakers and private sector landlords find a compromise during a time of widespread economic hardship.
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A real estate brokerage CEO told CNBC on Monday that flexibility and understanding is necessary as concerns rise over the possibility of a wave of evictions linked to economic devastation from the coronavirus.

“We have to apply a little bit of humanity in this environment because we are all in this storm, but not everybody is in the same boat,” Bess Freedman, chief executive of Brown Harris Stevens, said on “Power Lunch.”

Freedman, whose New York City-based firm largely operates in the high-end residential market, emphasized the intertwined relationship between the economic situations of tenants and that of landlords.

“If landlords aren’t getting their rent, they can’t pay their mortgages, then they may have to lay people off and that puts more strain on an already very, very high unemployment rate so that is not helpful,” said Freedman. “You’re going to see housing court jam packed. You’re going to see a lot of evictions and homelessness, which is something we don’t want to see.”

Freedman said she hopes public policymakers and those in the private sector are able to “compromise a bit” and work together on being flexible during a time of widespread economic hardship. “Maybe a discount on rent. Maybe another month where they don’t have to pay rent,” she said.

Freedman’s comments come days before the expiration of a national prohibition on evictions and foreclosures that was included in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that became law in March. The relief was extended to federally assisted properties. The CARES Act also established loan forbearance programs for homeowners with mortgages.

States governments also have put forth their own tenant protections, although they vary in length and strength, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.

The coronavirus pandemic has had significant health and economic consequences. In addition to the 3.8 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and roughly 140,000 deaths attributed to the virus, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. People have been added back to payrolls in recent weeks, but the U.S. unemployment rate for June stands at 11.1%, higher than any point during the Great Recession.

Lawmakers in Washington are currently debating the particulars of another piece of coronavirus response legislation, including whether to extend a federal enhancement to unemployment insurance. The extra $600 per week, on top of state-level benefits, is currently set to expire at the end of the month.