Is Incomplete Data Driving Eviction Policies?

Is Incomplete Data Driving Eviction Policies

The data driving eviction policies may not be complete, and in some cases may not be available, due to the  way court records and eviction reporting are broken down differently in multiple states and jurisdictions, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC).

The council says they have done research and “complete data on evictions is severely lacking,” they said in a release.

The release comes on the heels of a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in early June turning down a request by landlords to resume evictions, arguing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) overstepped its authority in issuing an eviction ban. The ban is set to expire June 30. The landlords have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to look at the case and block enforcement of the CDC order.

The appeals court decision follows U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision last month striking down the CDC eviction moratorium after finding the agency had overstepped its authority. But Friedrich, a Trump appointee, agreed to block the ruling from taking immediate effect to allow time for the Biden administration to appeal.

The NMHC said inadequate data “speaks to the hazard of one-size-fits-all federal-policy solutions.”

“The highly individualized nature of eviction proceedings and laws, along with locality-specific conditions that exacerbate housing instability like affordability and housing supply, calls for state and local solutions.”

Summary of data issues driving eviction policies

  • Existing evictions data is incomplete and, as a result, misleading;
  • Public-policy decisions and legal rulings are being made with flawed information;
  • Often, “mom-and-pop” property owners are at greater risk from eviction moratoriums;
  • Long-term solutions exist to support renters affected by the economic ramifications of COVID-19.

The NMHC argues that this incomplete data is finding its way into government policy and into the media and “causing some degree of confusion about the issue.” The council acknowledges it is difficult to get the data and information surrounding evictions and eviction practices.

More accurate information would help such as:

  • The number of eviction filings versus physical removals;
  • The reasons for eviction filings;
  • The amount of rent due when eviction filings were initiated;
  • An estimate of how much back rent was owed when eviction filings were initiated.

Other questions about the data the NMHC says might be helpful:

  • How have eviction practices and policies changed during the COVID-19 crisis?
  • Are evictions still being filed for monetary or non-monetary lease violations?
  • How is notice provided to residents?
  • Are written late notices given?
  • Are rental-assistance funds being used?

“While some of these may seem relatively basic, there is currently no way to collect accurate evictions data aggregated at a national level,” the council said.

Eviction moratoriums are unsustainable

The council said, “While well-intentioned, eviction moratoriums to address COVID-related hardships are unsustainable and ultimately do not address a renter’s underlying financial distress.

“Moreover, the severe lack of quality eviction data suggests there are few ways to target and measure the efficacy of such policies. The best eviction protection is ensuring that renters have access to resources to meet their financial obligations.”

The NMHC pointed out in the release that rental housing is dominated by mom-and-pop property owners and not big corporate owners.

“When eviction moratoria policies are treated as “rental holidays,” these individual property owners tend to suffer disproportionately – as do renters, who end up with fewer options.

“These ‘mom-and-pop’ property owners hold mortgages and are responsible for property taxes, insurance and payrolls. However, they also tend to offer more affordable rental options and are tightly linked with local community vendors who rely on them for work.”

The council said if these landlords decide to sell their rental housing and leave the market, this “directly reduces the availability of affordable housing.”

So instead of eviction moratoriums, the NMHC urged policymakers to “focus on effective ways to improve housing affordability and assist low-income renters. These include things like policies and programs that can greatly increase the supply of housing, increase funding for housing support programs, and deploy broad emergency financial assistance funds through simple and easy-to-access programs.”

 Will You Be Ready When the Eviction Moratorium Ends?

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