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After the Eviction Moratorium: How Are Renters Faring?

Regional Matters
September 29, 2022

An estimated 2.7 million U.S. households received an eviction filing in 2018. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, a wave of federal, state, and local regulations halted the eviction process as renters coped with employment disruption and income loss. The federal eviction moratorium ended in August 2021, which raises the question: How have renters in the Fifth District been faring over the past year? Evidence suggests that evictions are increasing back to pre-pandemic levels but are not surging higher as some had feared. This post examines how renters in the Fifth District are faring after the end of eviction moratoria and financial assistance programs.

A Better Baseline: New Estimates of Eviction Filings, 2000-2018

Insufficient data pose a challenge to understanding the current and historical scope of evictions and eviction risk. There is no nationwide eviction database, and jurisdictions vary in their capacity to collect data and track each step in the eviction process. However, new estimates from the Eviction Lab, a multidisciplinary research project based at Princeton University, offer the first comprehensive county-level view of eviction filings from 2000 to 2018. The estimates are based on court records and, for counties in which court records are not available, supplemented with the results from a statistical model that uses socioeconomic factors to estimate prevalence. The database includes estimates of the total number of eviction filings by county as well as the number of unique households threatened by evictions (i.e., households that received at least one eviction filing in a given year).

Eviction filing rates reflect tenant financial stability and payment history, but they also reflect variation in eviction laws, court costs, and tenant protections. Some landlords also use eviction filings to collect rent and additional fees rather than to remove a tenant. For example, laws in Maryland allow renters to stay in their homes if they pay any fees and rent in arrears after an eviction filing. This incentivizes landlords to file evictions as a first step rather than a last resort and may drive higher eviction filings.

Nationwide, the Eviction Lab estimates that almost six out of every 100 renter households received at least one eviction filing in 2018. Roughly 13 out of every 100 Fifth District households received at least one filing in 2018, but there was significant variation across counties. (See map below).

Source: Ashley Gromis, Ian Fellows, James R. Hendrickson, Lavar Edmonds, Lillian Leung, Adam Porton, and Matthew Desmond. Estimating Eviction Prevalence across the United States. Princeton University Eviction Lab., author's calculations.

Notes: Households threatened with eviction are those that received at least one eviction filing in 2018. The 95% credible interval (CI) lower and upper bounds represent a range of certainty around the estimates. The researchers report confidence that the true eviction filing rate lies between the minimum and maximum credible intervals. The narrower the interval, the more confidence in the estimate.

While most data on evictions and rental prices are centered around cities, where most renters live, households in rural counties are not immune from evictions. (See chart below.)

An eviction filing with a civil or housing court is just one step in the eviction process and does not always lead to a judgment in which a tenant is formally evicted. On the other hand, eviction filings do not capture informal evictions in which a landlord removes a tenant without going through the court system. The data also don't count tenants who must unexpectedly search for housing when a landlord chooses not to renew their lease. Eviction risk also looms for many: The Eviction Lab notes that many low-income families are cost burdened and often "living one misstep or emergency away from eviction."

Eviction Moratoria and Financial Assistance Kept Many Renters in Their Homes

In 2020, federal moratoria were put in place to prevent evictions of households that had lost income or employment during the pandemic. (See "Is a Wave of Evictions Coming?") As concerns mounted about the rental debt that would eventually come due, Congress allocated almost $47 billion for the U.S. Treasury to disperse in two rounds through the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. State and local agencies were tasked with distributing this aid to renters who were struggling to pay rent due to pandemic-related employment disruptions. In 2021, ERA grantees across the country distributed emergency rental assistance to 3.8 million households — the majority of which were very low income.

There has been variation in the pace and efficiency with which the money has been distributed. (See "Is Rental Assistance Getting to Those in Need?") States like Virginia, which had a well-developed eviction-prevention strategy in place, were able to distribute the money faster than states that had to build rental assistance programs from scratch. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has been tracking state-level ERA allocations and disbursements using the monthly U.S. Treasury reports and state databases. Among Fifth District states, Virginia has approved or paid the highest share (and nearly all) of its first-round ERA funding. West Virginia and South Carolina have distributed less of their allocations than the rest of the district.

Total Funding Amount ($Million)Amount Approved or Paid to Households ($Million)% Approved or Paid to HouseholdsTotal Funding Amount ($Million)Amount Approved or Paid to Households ($Million)% Approved or Paid to Households
District of Columbia229.8189.482.4152.0139.491.7
North Carolina554.0518.893.6489.8339.569.3
South Carolina238.5162.668.1232.075.232.4
West Virginia157.667.042.5152.053.235.0
Source: NLIHC. Notes: The Treasury required ERA reporting for each month through June 30, 2022; current amounts may be higher. The NLIHC does not distinguish between approved and paid ERA dollars—approved rental assistance dollars may not yet have been paid. These values do not include ERA funding allocated directly to localities within these states.

In September 2021, the Treasury began the process of reallocating ERA 1 funds from jurisdictions that had not met certain benchmarks for obligating or spending their allocations to other jurisdictions. Most jurisdictions must spend or obligate their original ERA 1 allocations by Sept. 30, 2022, while reallocated ERA 1 funds will be available to jurisdictions through December 2022. Jurisdictions have until September 2025 to deplete their ERA 2 allocations.

Households Faced New Budget Constraints as Pandemic-Era Supports Tapered Off

Now, as rental assistance programs have been winding down (coupled with the expiration of other financial supports such as enhanced unemployment benefits and direct economic impact payments), new financial challenges have emerged. Rising prices for household essentials like food and energy have put pressure on renters, particularly those in low- and moderate-income households in the Fifth District. Results from the July 27-Aug. 8 wave of the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey show that low-income Fifth District renters are disproportionately struggling to cover basic household expenses. (See chart below.)

Rent prices have also been rising. The nation's shortage of housing supply in both urban and rural areas was exacerbated during the pandemic as supply chain woes and labor shortages slowed construction. Low vacancy rates, a strong job market, and other factors have pushed prices up, particularly in cities that have seen high population growth. Rising rents and other price increases are making it difficult for some families to keep up. In the July 27-Aug. 8 U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey, 14.5 percent of Fifth District renter households reported being behind on rent payments.

Eviction Filings Are Approaching Pre-Pandemic Levels

When the federal eviction moratorium ended in August 2021, eviction filings and hearings resumed. Evictions were still delayed in Fifth District jurisdictions with state and local protections, but as of this posting, all remaining state restrictions on evictions have ended.

While current data on evictions are limited, there is evidence that eviction filings and judgments overall are trending back to pre-pandemic levels. In Greenville, S.C., for example, evictions in August were down just 7 percent relative to historic averages. In Charleston, S.C., evictions were down 37 percent but trending higher in September. Eviction hearings in Virginia, where a state moratorium on evictions ended in June, had reached 2016 levels by August. The Mecklenburg County (N.C.) sheriff's office reported 6,157 evictions in the first eight months of 2022 (compared to 6,893 over the same time period in 2019). These trends deserve continued close attention, but at this stage they do not indicate an "eviction cliff" as some had feared.

Still, the pandemic's impact on renter households has highlighted the importance of understanding the scope of the eviction crisis and investing in long-term eviction reduction strategies. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a report to Congress on the feasibility of developing a national eviction database. In addition, states and localities, including Maryland, the District of Columbia, Danville, Va., and Onslow County, N.C., have leveraged State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) to invest in housing. Some states, including Maryland through its Eviction Task Force, are evaluating existing eviction laws and resources available to tenants facing eviction.


State, federal, and local governments did a lot to keep renters in their homes throughout the pandemic and alleviate the rent burden for those in most need. With those protections and benefits expiring at the same time as rent and other necessities are seeing steep price increases, low-income renters especially are at a renewed risk of eviction. At this point at least, evictions have not surged past pre-pandemic levels.

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