Mass Evictions Didn’t Result After U.S. Ban Ended, Despite Fears

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Rental assistance, local policy changes help keep eviction rates lower than expected

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Both groups also think that federal rental aid, slow to get off the ground earlier this year, is now helping to prevent many new eviction filings.

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According to Eviction Lab, a Princeton University research initiative that tracks filings in more than 30 cities, eviction filings in court — this is how landlords begin the process of removing tenants from their homes — in September through August 8.7 a.m. % were up. But the rate is still low on a historical basis, and at 36,796 filings, it’s about half the average September rate pre-pandemic.

Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to President Biden, said, although the low eviction rate offers only a preliminary and incomplete look at the issue, “what is out there so far is certainly the best case scenario of anyone’s past.” The situation is better.”

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The eviction rate could still be fast. Courts are now hearing backlogs of cases registered earlier in the pandemic. Rental aid is still moving very slowly and in some places insufficient, said David Dworkin, a former US Treasury official and president and chief executive of the National Housing Conference, Washington affordable housing-advocacy group. “We have a long way to go,” said Mr. Dworkin.

In some places, evictions are not slowing down. Houston and Jacksonville, Fla., which lack some of the local protections found in other cities, moved very close to their historic removal levels last month.

The federal moratorium, which began in September 2020 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented it to slow viral spread, failed to stop all evictions, and some courts enforced the ban more strictly than others. did. But the policy greatly reduced the number of new eviction filings, housing analysts say.

Once the ban ends, many analysts expected the filing to increase. Millions of tenants were behind on their payments, many of whom thought they were in danger of being evicted soon, census surveys and other reports showed.

One reason this isn’t happening is that rental-assistance programs are now putting in more money and landlords are eager to get funding, said Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, a landlord trade group. About 20% of the $46.5 billion in available federal rent assistance is approved or paid to landlords and tenants, Mr. Bibby said.

After federal restrictions ended, nearly half of renters nationally still lived in areas with eviction restrictions or other pandemic eviction protections, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington housing think tank. California’s statewide eviction ban has since expired, although landlords must apply for rental assistance before a court can issue a summons for eviction.

Local governments have made other changes that have limited removal filing. Philadelphia landlords are required to go through out-of-court arbitration and apply for rental assistance before filing for eviction. The aid program has received around 65,000 applications this year.

“If you look at those applications as cases that would have potentially gone to court, that would be three times the volume that the court saw in any year before the pandemic,” said Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. Staff Attorney Kadeem Morris said. .

Philadelphia is also among a handful of cities that plan or have already begun guaranteeing tenants the right to legal advice, which advocates say could lead to fewer court filings. In September, new cases of evictions in the city of Philadelphia were 71% below their pre-pandemic average, according to Eviction Lab.

Virginia has passed several changes to make its rental laws more friendly to tenants. The state legislature last year extended the window for tenants to pay missed rent before landlords can file for eviction from five days to 14, a measure that will remain in effect until at least next June. For renters, this extension gives multiple full payment periods to settle their debts and avoid court subpoenas, said Marty Wegbret, director of litigation at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.

Eviction filings in Richmond were 84% below their pre-pandemic average in September, according to Eviction Lab. But in what may prove to be a sign of things to come, the city’s eviction filings in October were on the rise, the lab said.

Will Parker at [email protected]

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