A devastating eviction crisis is rapidly worsening all around the country, and it is threatening to push millions of families out of their homes this holiday season. Even though there was a brief pause in evictions after the moratorium ended in September, that didn’t happen because the number of filings had decreased, but because courts were extremely overwhelmed with a record backlog of unprocessed filings. Now, housing advocates are saying that the number of evictions has started to rise at an alarmingly high pace in many parts of the United States. Courts have just started to catch up on the backlog of eviction cases. The latest upsurge highlights the limits of federal emergency rental assistance in places where distribution remains slow and safety nets for tenants are incredibly weak. Soaring housing prices in many markets also are playing a role, as landlords rush to evict non-paying tenants to sell their properties at record prices.
Recent data released by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University has shown that eviction rates have been escalating in all of the 31 cities and six states where it collects data. Evictions in September jumped by 10.4 percent from August. In October, the month-to-month rate climbed to 38 percent. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, in November, the number of households claiming they weren’t confident in their ability to pay next month’s rent went up from about 5 million to 6.3 million in the latest data. The biggest problem is that government officials aren’t assessing the severity of the problem. The federal government believes it has already done everything in its power to prevent an eviction tsunami. In fact, officials are truly convinced that the poorly distributed rental assistance program has effectively averted a disaster.
But the truth is that mass evictions didn’t occur all at once because many courts were only running part-time due to mandates related to the health crisis, and they still have an enormous excess of cases to litigate and millions of hearings to make while the number of filings continues to pile up. Ben Martin, the senior researcher at Texas Housers, a nonprofit focused on housing issues, said that he was particularly disturbed by the initial commentaries issued by government officials after the moratorium ended, saying that “well, there wasn’t a tsunami so we don’t have an eviction crisis on our hands”. “That initial narrative was somewhat misleading. What we are seeing now is a reflection of reality, which is that evictions take time to work their way into and through the court system,” Martin stressed.
As we move towards the end of the year, there are plenty of signs that eviction cases will keep rising. With millions of children already homeless in America, housing advocates just released some shocking statistics suggesting that an additional 500,000 households with children are under threat of eviction this winter. While the number of homeless children in America is estimated at 1.6 million, many studies indicate the number could be far higher, as homeless statistics are often under-reported at the city, county, and state levels.
“When you’re struggling to pay rent or have an eviction notice hanging over you, the worry can be consuming,” explains Polly Neate, chief executive of a homeless shelter. “Oftentimes, it’s impossible to hide it from your kids, even though these are adult fears no parents want their child to experience”. “Millions of parents will spend sleepless nights this Christmas worrying about the eviction notices coming, where they will go, and if their next ‘home’ is going to be a gloomy hotel,” Neate added, saying that her shelter’s emergency helpline is receiving more calls about eviction than it did at the peak of the health crisis, as thousands of families fight to keep a roof over their heads.
To call it a disaster is an understatement. America’s housing instability and eviction crisis are becoming a major national emergency that our leaders keep refusing to look at. Our housing crisis is simply catastrophic and we must treat it with seriousness before millions of hard-working Americans are pushed into a poverty spiral that’s exceedingly difficult to recover fromThis is going to be a very difficult winter for many families across the country. Things have started to spin out of control, and we should all pay very close attention to the coming events because several challenges are still waiting for us.