New Research Finds Public Housing Agencies File Nearly 6% of Evictions

A new report published in Cities, “Eviction from Public Housing in the United States,” highlights trends in eviction filing rates among public housing agencies (PHAs). Using data from 1,243 PHAs spanning 26 states, the report finds that, on average, 7.6% of tenants in public housing receive an eviction filing annually, representing 5.8% of all eviction cases nationally. Eviction filing rates vary greatly across PHAs, however, with PHA-filing rates largely reflecting eviction trends in the corresponding private rental market. Socio-demographic characteristics were also associated with filing rates. PHAs that housed greater shares of Black households, households with children, and extremely low-income households had higher eviction filing rates.

The researchers merged eviction filing data purchased from LexisNexis with data on public housing units from HUD’s Picture of Subsidized Housing to estimate the number of evictions filed in public housing. The analysis found that while PHAs manage 3.5 out of every 100 rental housing units, PHAs account for 5.8 of every 100 eviction filings, representing a disproportionately high number of eviction filings. On average, PHAs file for eviction against 7.6% of their renter households annually.

There is, however, significant variation across PHAs. While some PHAs file nearly no evictions, others file evictions for more than 20% of renter households residing in their units each year. Part of this variation may be a result of variation in eviction rates across rental markets generally. The authors find that PHA eviction filing rates are highly associated with eviction rates in their corresponding private rental markets. A 1% increase in eviction filings in the private market is associated with a 1% eviction filing increase for PHAs in the same area. Virginia and South Carolina exhibited the largest median filing rates among both PHAs and within the private market, with filing rates exceeding 20% of renter households. This suggests that PHAs’ eviction practices are not immune to influence from local or state policies, such as landlord-tenant laws.

The research also found that within each state, eviction filings are higher for PHAs that have greater shares of Black households, households with children, and extremely low-income households. A 10% increase in the share of Black renters, for example, was associated with a 10% increase in a PHA’s eviction filing rate. A 10% increase in the share of households with children is associated with a 9.3% increase in filings, while a 10% increase in the share of renters earning less than 30% of the area median income is associated with a 7.1% increase in filings. The researchers found that for Black renters, this relationship held when comparing PHAs within the same county, suggesting that even within the same local contexts, Black households face increased risk of eviction and displacement from public housing.

The purpose of public housing is to provide affordable and stable housing to low-income renters who may struggle to access and maintain housing in the private market. Evicting households from public housing does the opposite, however, since eviction filings appear permanently on tenants’ housing records, significantly limiting households’ future housing stability. The authors suggest that clearer federal policies around tenant dispute resolution and allowable eviction actions could reduce eviction rates within PHAs. The authors also suggest learning from PHAs that have managed to keep eviction rates low and applying best practices across agencies.

Read the report at: