Housing activists, politicians, and researchers warned of an impending eviction tsunami when the U.S. Supreme Court revoked an eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August.
Diane Yentel (president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition) stated that the ruling would have a tragic and consequential outcome.
“The Supreme Court failed to protect 11 million households across our country from violent eviction in the middle of a deadly global pandemic,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D–Mo.This is a one-time estimate of the number of renters who were in arrears on their rent.
Evictions without a national moratorium are projected economically in a similarly dire scenario.
According to the Aspen Institute, 15 million renters were in arrears and could be evicted by July. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, 7.6 Million people were behind in rent for the past two weeks. Among them, 3.5M said that they would be evicted within the next two month.
These millions of evictions are still not happening a month following the expiration of the federal moratorium on federal evictions. Although filings are up, they still fall well short of historical norms nearly everywhere across the country.
According to Princeton University’s Eviction Laboratory, eviction filings increased 8.75 percent between August and September. This data covers approximately a quarter (or more) of all renters.
Peter Hepburn (sociology professor, Rutgers University) says that although it is increasing, it is not rising by much. Hepburn also works with Eviction Lab. “You look at September relative to historic averages, that leaves eviction filings at 48.5 percent below historic averages…We didn’t see a jump up to normal, let alone a jump past normal into a giant wave of eviction filings.”
There are many explanations for this phenomenon.
The first is the fact that, while the federal moratorium has ended, state and local moratoriums still exist across the country.
Austin, Texas has, however, its own eviction moratorium. The September 2021 average for evictions was 20 percent, which is roughly the same as August. New York City has a 10 percent state moratorium.
In areas that had not been covered by the CDC moratorium, evictions are more common.
Connecticut saw just over 1000 evictions alone in September, after a state moratorium had expired at June’s end.
This is the largest number of evictions since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. This is almost twice the amount of evictions that were filed in August 2021,” Erin Kemple, Connecticut Fair Housing Center. We are getting closer to meeting the number of evictions before the pandemic, even though we don’t have the right numbers.
However, despite the sharp rise in evictions, and the absence of a local moratorium, Connecticut’s filing rates remain at 60 percent. This is compared to Connecticut’s historical averages. This is true in most states and cities where the federal moratorium provided last protection from eviction.
A second explanation could be that the federally funded $46 billion rent relief states and cities have been receiving to tenants and landlords is finally being used to stop evictions.
Many states were not prepared for the early implementation of these programs. Some applicants complained of crashing their sites and being pressed for documents that they didn’t possess. It was often months before the government actually sent out check checks to applicants who submitted applications.
These agencies, which are part of the state and city governments, complain that they lack technical and staff expertise and cannot effectively disburse funds.
However, in recent months the rate at which governments spend this money has increased rapidly.
According to data from the U.S. Treasury Department, only $1.5 Billion of $25 billion was spent by jurisdictions between January and May 2021. Only $2.2 billion was spent in August.
It is obvious that landlords would be less likely to try to expel tenants if there was more money available to them to pay rent and utility bills. It’s especially true in those states that landlords have to stop evicting tenants as a condition for accepting rent relief funds.
In addition to reducing eviction filings, landlords may feel more confident about receiving funds in the future due to their programs’ increasing effectiveness.
Hepburn states, “If a state isn’t distributing money to the people it’s worth it or the process takes so long that you feel it’s not worthwhile, you might not have the time to do it. You may prefer to take the loss to evict somebody and then try to get them replaced quickly.” You might be more willing to wait if the state or municipality has a very efficient local program.
Data shows a close correlation between the filing of evictions and spending on rent relief.
Even though they are spending less rent relief money, evictions are still below the average rate. Cincinnati, Ohio only has used about 15% of the rent relief money it received in its first round, while filings remain at around 80 percent of historical norms. St. Louis, Missouri has used just 40 percent of the rent relief funds it received. However, September saw a decrease of 40 percent in evictions.
One explanation could be that evictions did not surge in the recession-induced pandemic, contrary to expectations.
Salim Furth of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center said that even if there hadn’t been any moratoria, evictions might have dropped sharply last spring, when landlords didn’t stand a chance of getting another tenant in. Reason June
He explains that landlords are more likely to make deals with tenants in trouble during a down economic climate. It is possible to evict a tenant and still have a vacant space in difficult economic times.
Evidence suggests that landlords were willing to let tenants go during the pandemic.
A report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that 48 percent of landlords surveyed deferred renting in 2020. This is an increase from the 15 percent reported in 2019. 21% of landlords forgive some rent, an increase from 3% in 2019. In addition, there was a double-digit increase in landlords willing to waive late fees.
It is possible that a slower-than-expected recovery will continue to push down eviction filings in 2021, even in areas with poor rent relief programs and no eviction protections.
Evictions below average aren’t going to hold for ever.
Furth states that evictions are a part of the economic recovery. Kemple also believes that Connecticut is returning to prepandemic levels in terms of evictions.
All indications are that the increase will be more similar to a rising tide than a tsunami.
This hasn’t stopped policymakers from trying to extend existing moratoriums or reinstate them where they’ve expired. Jenny Durkan (Seattle Mayor) recently extended the city’s eviction moratorium until January 2022.
Progressive lawmakers led by Bush and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) A bill was introduced that would have a national eviction moratorium. It is more comprehensive than the CDC order.
Housing advocates are quick to remind Americans that there was a high number of evictions before the pandemic and so a return back to normal isn’t something they should be aiming for. However, they aren’t meant to be a long-term solution. Eviction moratoriums also can have severe negative effects on property rights and owners.
The rush to reinstate a federal moratorium even though there is no immediate surge in evictions on the horizon is evidence that politicians find it difficult to remove these emergency regulations.