Millions are out of work due to Omicron, but that hasn’t stopped Miami landlords from posting eviction notices and raising rents.

By Alexandra Martinez, Prism

Two days before Christmas last year, Rachel Rubí and her mother, Maria Rubí, learned their rent would increase by 65% beginning February 2022. The two tenants have lived in a decades-old, two-story apartment building in Hialeah, a blue-collar and predominantly immigrant city within Miami-Dade County, for 25 years. Maria, who emigrated from Nicaragua, earns $14 an hour as a cashier at a store in the city. Rachel, who is 24 years old, has lived in the building her entire life and recently graduated from college with a degree in graphic design but is currently unemployed. Their modest income was just enough for the $1,000 a month they paid for their two-bedroom apartment. But after the Miami-based real estate investment firm Eco Stone Group bought the 20-unit apartment building last month, the company drove rents up to a staggering $1,650, and they won’t be able to afford their life-long home.

A sign on a door reads

“This is normal in Hialeah, it’s slumlord culture,” said Rachel during an Instagram Live interview. “This does not only happen in Miami; it is happening everywhere. I’m just able to share what’s happening to me.”

Tenants across the country are seeing rent spikes like the one in Hialeah. According to Apartment List’s National Rent Report, the national median rent increased by 17.8% in the last year. Concurrently, unemployment claims across the country have spiked for the second week in a row this month, according to data from the Department of Labor. With Omicron spreading across communities, people are struggling to pay rent due to pandemic-related job losses or reduced hours. According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, more than 8.7 million Americans were not working in late December and early January because of COVID-19.  After eviction moratoriums ended August 2021, more tenants potentially faced eviction, with Black communities most at risk. According to the Eviction Lab, 23 cities saw an increase of at least 10% in eviction filings after the CDC’s moratorium was lifted.

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