New Issue of Evidence Matters Highlights Eviction-Prevention Initiatives during COVID-19

A new issue of HUD’s Evidence Matters focuses on evictions in the United States, including disparities in eviction rates, social and economic impacts, and evidence-based mitigation strategies. One article, “Eviction Prevention Initiatives,” highlights programs curbing evictions in Philadelphia, PA, Grand Rapids, MI and Colorado. Using a combination of rental assistance, housing counseling, and legal aid, these programs have prevented numerous evictions during COVID-19 and have laid the groundwork for permanent programs to further housing stability.

Philadelphia’s program, launched in September 2020 and authorized by the city’s Emergency Housing Protection Act, requires renters and landlords to participate in mediation prior to an eviction filing. In 2021, the program was revised to require landlords to apply for rental assistance before filing for eviction. These measures formalized a partnership between the eviction diversion program and the municipal court, greatly reducing the number of landlords that filed for eviction when they should have gone through the eviction-diversion process. To date, the program has mediated nearly 1,200 cases, 80% of which reached agreements.

The Eviction Prevention Program (EPP) in Grand Rapids, MI, began as a pilot in 2018 providing one-time rental assistance payments to households facing eviction. Previously funded by emergency solutions grants (ESG), philanthropic, and general operating funds, the program has grown during COVID-19, as unprecedented rental assistance funding has been allocated to Michigan through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. During the pandemic, EPP staff has attended virtual eviction hearings to screen tenants for eligibility. If tenants are eligible, the tenant, landlord, and judge sign a conditional agreement that if the past-due rent is paid, the eviction will not show up on a tenant’s record nor affect their credit score.

A non-profit, the Community Firm, launched Colorado’s COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project (CEDP) after estimating that nearly 181,000 renter households in Colorado would be at risk of eviction due to the pandemic’s financial impacts. Initially mobilizing volunteer attorneys and advocates to provide legal aid and share resources, the program expanded in 2020 to provide rental assistance with philanthropic investments. In 2021, CEDP scaled up to become a local administrator of state ERA funds, while also continuing to provide legal services and clinics to tenants.

While these programs have been critical to ensure housing stability during the public health crisis, they also faced challenges, like ensuring tenants knew about the programs and having to scale operations rapidly. These prevention programs also do not solve underlying issues that lead households to eviction, such as affordable housing shortages and low wages. Despite these limitations, the programs have been critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, keeping renters stably housed, and preventing the social and economic consequences of eviction.

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