The moratorium on evictions in the U.S. ended in September. Three months later, evictions are rising slowly but surely. They are expected to pass pre-pandemic levels by April 2022.
The pandemic cost an estimated 20 million people their jobs during 2020, with 30-80 million more being laid off without pay for at least two months. To keep that from translating into the worst rise in homelessness this country has seen since the Dustbowl, first states and then federal moratoriums on eviction for nonpayment of rent were put into place. But despite several extensions, they couldn’t last forever.
The Eviction Lab, a research group at Princeton University, has been tracking evictions in 31 cities in six states. By October, eviction numbers had risen 40 percent. While that is still at half the rate of 2019, researchers observe that the eviction court is constantly full, and booked out for half a year to come. If courts still had the staff and resources they did before the pandemic, eviction rates would likely be higher.
“There was a batch of initial commentary coming out when the moratorium ended and the tone… was, well, there wasn’t a tsunami so we don’t have an eviction crisis on our hands,” said Ben Martin, senior researcher at Texas Housers, a nonprofit focused on housing issues.
“That initial narrative was somewhat misleading. What we are seeing is a reflection of reality, which is that evictions take time to work their way into and through the court system.”
According to the National Housing Law Project, there has also been a rise of illegal evictions, ranging from simple lockouts through landlords lying in court about cash rent payments to landlords who received federal assistance kicking out the tenants that assistance paid for.
Legal eviction tactics such as huge upswings in rent that cannot be paid, refusing to take federal aid checks, cash-for-keys deals, and tricking uninformed tenants into consenting to leave are also on the rise, but extremely difficult to document.
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