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Episode 27: Making the Rent

Adrian Florez

The coronavirus pandemic is testing our society’s safety net in ways we never imagined. There are millions of people across the country and thousands in Washington state who are unable to keep up with their rent.

This is the situation a renter named Alison found themself in this past summer. Out of work, but with rent due and bills to pay, Alison is stuck and frustrated.

“I, like, got the practical job, I lived in the city. I bought into this whole sort of like very individualistic, independent mode of existing. You can play the game, and it still can go sideways. And so, I just want people to understand that, like, if this is what's happening to me and I'm one of the lucky ones, think about the people who aren't the lucky ones,” said Alison, who rented a studio apartment in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Alison, who uses they/them pronouns, wants to share their story but doesn’t want us to use their last name. They can’t be evicted right now, because they are protected by federal and state moratoriums on evictions. But overdue rent is still piling up for millions of Americans. And one day, maybe one day soon, those eviction moratoriums are going to expire, and that rent is going to come due. 

People like Alison are faced with a choice. Do you try to move in the middle of a pandemic with no money, or do you stay, and let the debt pile up?

“I’m not interested in that. I’d rather live out of a car than do that,” said Alison.

In this episode of Transmission, we’ll hear what tenants like Alison are going through. We’ll also talk to Edmund Witter, an attorney with King County Bar Association's Housing Justice Project, and we’ll tell you about about Housing Connector, a program that is keeping  hundreds of vulnerable people housed in this difficult time.

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Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.