Federal housing moratoriums have been extended to the summer to prevent mass homelessness as the nation continues to fight the COVID-19 public health emergency, yet advocacy groups say eviction filings are continuing across the country.
The Eviction Lab at Princeton University, a team of researchers focusing on eviction data in the U.S., says one of the reasons is local housing courts have interpreted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order differently across the country.
In October, the CDC issued non-binding guidance that landlords could file to evict tenants, as long as other stages of the eviction process (for example issuing a writ of eviction at the end of the case) are halted.
As a result of the guidance, the Eviction Lab says they’ve seen various courts implement the CDC order differently.
Some states, like Texas, require landlords to include a blank copy of the CDC moratorium declaration form when they give a tenant a notice to quit. Elsewhere, judges have questioned the validity of CDC declaration forms provided by renters.
“Preventing the final execution of an eviction order is important. However, allowing the full eviction court process to play out during the eviction moratorium will cause avoidable harm to tenants,” said authors of the Eviction Lab update.
“Many tenants may move out before the eviction case concludes, even if they would qualify for protection under the eviction moratorium. Data from before the pandemic show that many tenants leave without the case going to court, perhaps aware that the vast majority of cases end with decisions in the landlord’s favor.”
“At the same time, just the presence of a filing on a tenant’s record can prevent that tenant from accessing safe and healthy rental housing in the future.”
The Eviction Lab asserts that specific language must be added to federal moratoriums that would in turn prevent all stages of eviction, prevent landlords from refusing to renew leases — another form of eviction and provide financial assistance that helps both landlords and renters.
The people most affected by the eviction crisis are those who are already hit hard by unemployment, health care and housing costs, most of them people of color.
Black and Latin mothers bear the brunt of pandemic-induced evictions exacerbating existing inequalities, according to the data.
“In previous work, we have demonstrated that landlords file for eviction against Black and Latinx renters — especially Black and Latinx women — at higher rates than against their white and male counterparts,” said authors of the Eviction Lab update. “The share of Black tenants receiving eviction filings is often far larger than their share of the renter population.
“Between 2012 and 2016, nearly one in every four Black renters lived in a county in which the Black eviction rate was more than double the white eviction rate,” the authors said. “Black and Latinx women were also evicted in much higher numbers than Black and Latinx men.”
In Jacksonville, Fla., Memphis, and across the state of Wisconsin, the share of filings against Black people has increased during the pandemic, according to the Eviction Lab.
Normally, 35.4 percent of filings in Wisconsin are against Black people; since last March, that share is up to 37.2 percent . Black people make up only 12 percent of all renters in the state.
The increase in the share of filings against Latinx renters during the pandemic has been driven by both cities with significant Latinx renters (e.g., Houston and Fort Worth, Texas) and those with much smaller Latinx populations (e.g., Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio).
For example, only 6.4 percent of all renters in Cleveland are Latinx.
The Eviction Lab adds that understanding the demographics of those currently facing eviction filings is critical in a complete analysis of the broad social harms of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our analyses suggest that eviction filings over the last eight months have, by and large, targeted the same communities and individuals who were at risk of eviction prior to the pandemic” the Lab said. “While fewer cases than normal have been filed over this period, the populations at risk of eviction have not substantially changed. Rather, the threat of eviction is concentrated among those for whom displacement was an all-too-common risk before the pandemic began.”