Effects of the Federal Eviction Moratorium Being Lifted: The Feared Wave of Evictions That Never Hit by Lindsey Smith
Effects of the Federal Eviction Moratorium Being Lifted: The Feared Wave of Evictions That Never Hit
by Lindsey Smith
The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) federal eviction moratorium, which halted evictions across the nation, began in May 2020 and was ended by the U.S. Supreme Court in August 2021. Shortly thereafter in September 2021, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) moratorium on foreclosures for federally backed mortgages also expired. There has never been a nationwide moratorium on evictions or foreclosures before, so with both of these federal COVID-19 housing measures ending at about the same time, there was speculation and uncertainty about what would happen next.
Zillow projected that the number of evictions would skyrocket to 1.5 times what they would typically have been before the pandemic. This seemed like a reasonably prediction at the time, since eviction filings did not stop during the pandemic and only kept accumulating, creating a backlog. Because there is no national database of evictions, it is difficult to estimate the number of renters who were behind on rent during the pandemic, but estimates range from 6 to 15 million. During the moratorium, eviction filings were around 49% compared to historical averages. Since the moratorium ended, instead of the expected massive influx of evictions, landlords are still filing far fewer evictions than they normally would in a pre-pandemic year. Eviction filings did increase in the first two months after the moratorium ended, but in the third month they slightly dropped. Overall, in the first three months after the moratorium ended, there were just 20.4% more eviction cases filed.
After the expiration of these drastic and unprecedented measures, why has not much changed? There are many possible explanations. Some tenants may have moved out on their own to avoid the cost of defending an eviction suit; this is often the case for tenants who are low income, do not have legal representation, or are immigrants. Evictions are seen as a last resort by many landlords, and with the extension of time afforded by the moratorium, perhaps many parties instead chose to resolve things on their own. Another potential reason we are not seeing a spike in evictions is that in some parts of the country the eviction moratorium was ignored or barely enforced, as in Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee. One data scientist speculates that the moratorium did not have an effect on the total number of eviction filings at all. A sudden wave of evictions may have been avoided due to the massive amount of emergency rental assistance that has been available during the pandemic. Congress approved $46.6 billion dollars in Emergency Rental Assistance funds, and the Treasury Department reported that as of October 2021 $2.86 billion more in state and local assistance was disbursed. Lastly, courts in different states handle eviction cases at different paces and some regions retained protections for tenants even after the expiration of federal protections.
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