Eviction Filings Associated with Increases in Homelessness

An article published in Housing Policy Debate, Quantifying the Impact of Evictions and Eviction Filings on Homelessness Rates in the United States,” evaluates the relationship between evictions and rates of homelessness at the Continuum of Care (CoC) level. The results indicate that eviction filings, which are the first recorded step in the legal eviction process, are associated with increases in sheltered homelessness in the following year. However, the authors find no evidence of a relationship between eviction judgments, which are cases in which a judge has ordered a tenant to vacate a property, and homelessness. The authors posit that this could be because many tenants leave after an eviction is filed, often in anticipation of a judgment. The authors suggest their findings point to the need for policy solutions that provide resources for tenants before or immediately after an eviction filing.

To conduct their analysis, the authors matched point-in-time (PIT) estimates of homelessness from HUD (available at the CoC level) with county-level rates of eviction filings and eviction judgments from 2007 to 2017. They restricted their sample to communities that had complete eviction filing data, which reduced their sample to 64% of all CoCs included in the 2017 PIT count. The authors also controlled for median household income, temperature, housing vacancy rates, and proportion of cost-burdened renter households. 

CoCs had an average eviction filing rate of 7.3% across all years in the sample, which was more than twice the eviction judgment rate of 3.1%. The average rate of homelessness was 22.3 per 10,000 people in the sample. However, homelessness rates varied across CoCs. The CoC with the lowest homelessness rate had 1.38 per 10,000 people, while the highest stood at 838.63 per 10,000 people.

After controlling for other factors, the authors observed a significant positive association between the rate of evictions filed and the rate of sheltered homelessness in the following year. For every one percentage point increase in the eviction filing rate, there was an associated 0.205 person increase in the following year in the rate of sheltered homelessness per 10,000 people. Sixty-seven percent of this increase in sheltered homelessness was attributable to homelessness experienced by individuals, rather than families. The authors did not find evidence of a relationship between filing rates and unsheltered homelessness. Further, they found no statistically significant relationship between eviction judgments and the rate of sheltered or unsheltered homelessness.

These findings corroborate previous research documenting the harms of eviction filings even in the absence of a final judgment. While most eviction prevention programs support tenants after an eviction has been filed, the authors suggest that these programs should intervene earlier on to pre-empt filings. They call for further research into the efficacy of programs such as the prefiling clinic established in Ramsey County, Minnesota, which seeks to provide financial assistance, case management services, and legal representation to prevent evictions.

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