John Oliver rails against another 'COVID-related catastrophe,' the looming evictions crisis

John Oliver on the looming eviction crisis
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Last Week Tonight)

The coronavirus pandemic is bad enough on its own, but also "we have a huge COVID-related catastrophe that's actually just around the corner," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "As if things weren't bad enough, in the middle of a pandemic, we may be about to see evictions on the rise," a "shocking" but "completely foreseeable" crisis given the hit to jobs and incomes as work stopped. While state and federal economic measures and moratoriums "undoubtedly helped hold back the tide, those mechanisms are now starting to run out or expire, and if we do nothing, experts are predicting horrific outcomes," he said, "with millions of people left vulnerable" to homelessness.

Even during the moratoriums, landlords were filing papers to evict tenants at the first possible chance, and some courts have held hearings online — sometimes "throwing people out of their house via Zoom, a platform you're only using because it's not safe for people to leave their homes," Oliver said. "The fact is, we're about to go out of our way to throw people out of their homes at the worst possible time, and even in normal times evictions are incredibly damaging, with long-term effects."

"So tonight, with rent due in just three days, I thought it might be a good time to talk about evictions," he said. "And let's start with the fact that the lack of affordable housing is yet another systemic problem that the coronavirus has thrown into harsh relief." About a million households are evicted each year, with Black families particularly hard-hit, and it shouldn't be left to the kindness of landlords to prevent the spike we're about to see. The House approved $100 billion in rent assistance back in May, but Senate Republicans and the White House have not yet touched the bill — or proposed an alternative.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"It's important to remember, everyone is in this crisis together right now, and this isn't just a rainy day — it's the great flood," Oliver said. "Everyone deserves the basic stability of shelter, and if you are in a position where you've begun to despise the house that you've been shut inside for the past three and a half months, it is worth remembering, the only thing worse than knowing you're going to spend another day stuck under the same roof is not knowing that." Watch below. Peter Weber

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.