Despite Federal Moratorium, Eviction Rates Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels

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Yves here. The official declaration that Covid is behind us also means an end to various relief measures, even one that are supposed to be not yet over. Independent of a Federal court striking down the CDC Covid eviction moratorium as an over-reach (the ruling is being appealed), landlords were already moving to defenestrate tenants in arrears and having some success at it. This trend will only accelerate, since it’s not hard to imagine that landlords will invoke the new CDC Covid guidelines in court as proof that the public health emergency is over to contest state-level bans.

By Benjamin Larsen, Research Associate, Idaho Policy Institute, Boise State University and McAllister Hall, Research Associate, Idaho Policy Institute, Boise State University. Originally published at The Conversation

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Idaho, like many states across the country, faced rising housing costs, low home-vacancy rates and increasing efforts by landlords to evict tenants.

Thanks to increased unemployment benefits, federal stimulus checks and eviction moratoriums – all part of the government’s pandemic response – renters’ lives improved slightly in 2020. But with those programs decreasing or disappearing, many Idahoans and other Americans who rent their homes will still struggle to pay rent and face imminent risk of being evicted.

Our analysis of eviction rates across the state of Idaho finds that numbers were down in 2020 but are poised to return to – or even exceed – pre-pandemic levels in the coming months as economic support for renting families runs out.

Similar trends in other states could spark a rise in evictions across the nation.

Idaho Evictions

In 2016, 2,037 or 1.1% of all renting households in Idaho faced an eviction filing – when a landlord formally requests an eviction order from a court. The courts ordered evictions for 1,107 households, or 0.6% of the state’s renting households that year.

Eviction filings that do not end in an ordered eviction may be a result of renters reaching a settlement with the landlord before eviction. Even when dismissed or settled, filings affect a tenant’s record, potentially making it challenging to find new housing for years into the future.

By 2019, eviction filings increased to affect 2,673 households, 1.4% of the state’s renting households, with 1,611, or 0.8%, ultimately facing a court-ordered eviction. Between 2016 and 2019, housing prices in Idaho increased by 34.7%, while the median income increased by only 17.7%. When housing costs outpace income, affordable housing stock decreases with a likely increase in evictions.

In 2020, however, eviction numbers dropped – 1% of Idaho’s renting households, 1,893 families, had an eviction filing and 1,127, or 0.6%, were formally evicted.

Unlike other states, Idaho did not have a statewide eviction ban, but there are potential reasons for these decreases.

From March 25 through April 30, 2020, state courts were closed, except for essential hearings – which could have included evictions relating to illegal activity. Most other eviction proceedings would have been delayed. In addition, some landlords may have decided to seek resolutions other than eviction, especially as cash aid came in from federal and state governments.

However, when the courts reopened in May 2020, eviction filings and formal evictions spiked. And monthly statistics show the rates rising almost back to 2019’s levels. This raises the question of the ability of federal bans alone to decrease eviction rates.

Federal Eviction Moratoriums

When the pandemic hit, an estimated 15.9 million people across the country lost their jobs and faced difficulty affording their housing. Public health officials needed people to stay at home to limit the spread of the virus, so governments took action to curb the evictions many feared were imminent.

Federal relief legislation included direct cash payments to most American households, additional unemployment payments, emergency rental assistance and bans on evictions.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, banned evictions from March 24 through Aug. 24, 2020, but applied to only the relatively small number of renters using federal assistance programs to pay their rent, or living in properties with federally backed financing.

A broader eviction ban, ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, took effect on Sept. 4, 2020, and is set to expire on June 30, 2021. It covers more renters, including people who are at risk of moving to overcrowded lodging or becoming homeless. But it’s not automatic protection: Tenants must prove their eligibility.

The CDC’s eviction ban also faces several court challenges; it was most recently struck down by a federal court in Washington, D.C. – though the decision is on hold pending appeals. So its protection may not last very long.

Making matters more stressful for renters, neither eviction ban forgave unpaid rent, so renters are still responsible for back rentand may face eviction in the future if they cannot pay.

State and Local Eviction Moratoriums

States and cities across the U.S. that set up their own eviction-prevention programs are seeing lower eviction rates than those where tenants were protected only by the federal rules.

Princeton University’s Eviction Lab Tracking System gathers eviction data in five states: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Minnesota and Missouri, as well as 28 cities around the country.

Like Idaho, Missouri did not have a statewide eviction ban and saw a similar dip and spike in cases in April and May 2020. Delaware and Indiana had statewide bans and saw sharp increases in eviction filings after the bans expired. Connecticut and Minnesota both have ongoing bans, and eviction rates are far below pre-pandemic levels.

In cities the Eviction Lab tracks, places with local eviction bans saw eviction rates drop dramatically until the local protections expired.

Other Efforts to Help

In Idaho, Republican Gov. Brad Little allocated $15 million in federal CARES Act funds to provide rental assistance to households struggling to pay rent because of the pandemic. Another $200 million was added to that fund through the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. Payments go directly to landlords to offset current and back rent, depending on a household’s specific circumstances.

Once these funds run out and the CDC eviction ban expires or is overturned in court, renters throughout the country will have no remaining pandemic-related protections from eviction filings. However, those households may still be feeling the pressure from the pandemic – and may not be able to come up with current rent, much less months of back rent they might also owe.

The aid may be coming to an end, but the potential for an eviction crisis remains – in Idaho, and around the nation.

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  1. ambrit

    This is the kind of situation that would have justified debt jubilees in days of yore.
    This dynamic creates exactly the anti-social pressures that define a predatory system.
    At this rate, the ‘blowback’ is going to be particularly vicious.

    1. Equitable > Equal

      Especially as the US already contains roughly 7 million people that lost their homes barely a decade ago. It can be safely assumed that some of those now facing eviction due to job loss have already faced foreclosure due to job loss in their lifetimes, with the resultant impacts on equity, credit score, etc.

      1. tegnost

        It can be safely assumed that some of those now facing eviction due to job loss have already faced foreclosure due to job loss in their lifetimes, with the resultant impacts on equity, credit score, etc.

        And anger. Don’t forget anger…
        It’s gonna be a long, hot summer…
        In the uberlyft article in links the “rideshare” companies are going to guarantee 120% of minimum wage (while they have passengers, not while they’re waiting for them hahahahahaha….every worker should make leaving cali a priority)! Evict California!

  2. urblintz

    and yesterday, Florida joined 21 other states that will no longer participate in the federal, $300/wk unemployment aid which will inevitably exacerbate the problem.

    Shouldn’t Biden be stepping up and saying the Fed will continue sending those checks despite the GOP governor pushback? Is their choosing not to participate the same thing as ending it?

  3. dummy

    I manage a multifamily building and know pretty well the tenants (24 units)
    As the moratorium hit, about 8 of them stopped paying, they didnt lose their job but chose to stay home for the extra benefits and take advantage of the situation.
    They dont plan showing up for work till September at least and rent arrears keep accumulating.
    My experience managing properties is that chances of collecting arrears are nil.
    We are preparing eviction papers and file as soon as the moratorium is lifted.
    Another observation, there was a huge increase on the amount of recycling and garbage we picked up during the pandemic and still ongoing, mainly amazon boxes , people buying all kind of useless gadgets, (foot massagers, big tv, etc ) but I was surprised by the amount of expensive Don Perignon champagne and Blue label whisky bottles we had to recycle and still do, those are items that cost $200 a bottle and we didnt have them precovid. (average rent in the building is $1600/month)
    With much of that unpaid rent, the landlord is deeply in the red as I know the accounting.
    I am suspicious of the idea that moratorium did any good and that all the poor are innocent creatures that suffer through no fault of their own. It doesnt correspond to the reality I see everyday.
    We have a long waiting list of people waiting for a unit to become available.
    Had the government done nothing, the situation would be much better, yes some people would have been evicted but more housing would have been available to others who are denied a house basically by government decree, and less landlords would be in the red too.

    1. sam

      I totally agree. The eviction moratorium has operated just like classic NYC style rent control – benefitting incumbent renters while discouraging turnover, diminishing vacancies and driving up prices for everyone else.

      This may also be a case of public responsibilities being shifted to a politically disfavored group. It’s estimated that over half of rental units are owned by small proprietors who probably tend to vote Republican and are therefore an inviting target for Democratic politicians.

    2. timbers

      I wish I could impose a moratorium on my local real estate taxes and water bills. There are surging at double digit annual increases.

      If DC really wants to help renters, tax Amazon/Apple/Google and the rich at progressive rates and give it to renters.

      Don’t steal from property owners, many of whom like myself are not rich.

    3. Arizona Slim

      Hey, dummy, I can totally relate.

      For nearly 13 years, I rented from a lady who, unfortunately, had a lot of tenants like yours. Let’s just say that they were not the best at paying the rent on time, or, in many cases, at all.

      I tried not to be like those tenants, and after I left, she thanked me for that.

      Any-hoo, I’m almost positive that I live across the street from a family that resembles dummy’s multifamily building tenants. The rest of the neighborhood is praying to the patron saint of evictions.

      Suffice it to say that we won’t miss this family one single bit.

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