As the national moratorium on evictions was thrown out by the Supreme Court last month, evictions are happening, but not the flood of millions being made homeless that we feared. But that doesn't mean that the problem is resolved, not in the least.
When the Supreme Court decided to strike down a federal ban on evictions in August, lawmakers and housing experts mentioned a slew of devastating metaphors — cliff, tsunami, tidal wave — to describe the national eviction crisis they saw coming. One month later, however, many of those same authorities find themselves wondering: Where is the cliff?
In major metropolitan areas, the number of eviction filings has dropped or remained flat since the Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on Aug. 26, according to experts and data collected by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. In cities around the country, including Cleveland, Memphis, Charleston and Indianapolis, eviction filings are well below their pre-pandemic levels.
Housing and eviction experts offered a mix of guesses about why an expected onslaught of evictions has not yet materialized, including that the wave could still be coming. The pace at which courts handle cases varies widely across the country, and some courts may be severely backlogged. In some regions of the country, the federal eviction moratorium did little to slow filings amid the pandemic and, in other areas, protections are in place. Some tenants may have also moved on their own to avoid an eviction.
Housing experts don’t believe the country has solved its eviction issues, and there are still places where evictions have risen since the ban ended. Filings have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels in Gainesville, Fla., and have come close in Cincinnati and Jacksonville, Fla.
Still, the overall picture has confused experts who had grim warnings for the looming crisis once the federal ban was no longer in place. Those same experts are hesitant to say the wave won’t come. After all, recent Pulse Survey data by the Census Bureau suggests that some 3 million households have reported concerns of imminent eviction.
“I think it’s too early to declare decisively that this isn’t happening,” said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab, which tracks cases in 31 cities and six states around the country. “This may not take the form of a sudden spike in eviction cases all at once. It may be something that’s much more delayed and diffuse.”
I think that the theory where the courts can't handle the backlog of eviction cases is most likely correct. We're not seeing evictions hit massive numbers because the courts are stuck processing them, and in some cases, are working with landlords and tenants.
Rental assistance programs are there, they just have to be accessed, and I think courts are turning to these systems to get landlords their money and tenants their help.
For now, the dam is holding. How long, well, we'll see.