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Tracking the Impact of the CDC Eviction Moratorium

An apartment with a sign in front reminding residents about the rent.A recent report that analyzed eviction filings in 63 jurisdictions nationwide found that jurisdictions without an active local moratorium, but subject to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium, had 36 percent fewer eviction filings in December 2020 than in December 2019. Credit: Allen J.M. Smith/Shutterstock.com

In this article, Aaron Shroyer discusses the eviction moratorium issued by the CDC.

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its eviction moratorium in September 2020, the moratorium has provided critical protections for housing-insecure tenants across the country, including this tenant in Connecticut who would have become homeless if her eviction had proceeded. Early and available evidence suggests that the moratorium has achieved its goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19, which clearly demonstrates the connection between stable housing and residents’ health.

Evictions force previously housed families to find new shelter with limited options. According to the 2017 American Housing Survey, one in three households reported that they would move in with family or friends in the event of an eviction. Doubling up with another household puts both households at risk of not only contracting COVID-19 but also unauthorized occupant evictions. Many families, however, do not have family or friends to double up with, especially during a pandemic, and instead end up in shelters or on the streets.

Prepandemic national data show that many households who enter emergency shelters or experience unsheltered homelessness do so after experiencing an eviction. In a study across 12 U.S. cities, nearly half of families entering emergency shelters had experienced an eviction or other landlord problem. A survey of tenants facing eviction in Seattle found that 38 percent of evicted renters ultimately ended up unsheltered, whereas 25 percent moved into shelter or transitional housing. Whether these households double up or move into a shelter, these new living arrangements make them more susceptible to COVID-19 transmission.

Evidence suggests that states’ eviction moratoriums (those in place before the CDC issued its national moratorium in September) were effective at reducing COVID-19 infections and deaths. Even after accounting for various federal- and state-level interventions, a study led by researchers at Duke University found that local eviction moratoria reduced the number of COVID-19 cases by 3.8 percent and COVID-related deaths by 11 percent. Another study analyzed the impact of expiring statewide moratoriums and found that the incidence of both infections and mortality increased significantly in states where eviction moratoria were lifted. Aside from impacts regarding the incidence of COVID-19, state-level eviction moratoria in place before the CDC’s moratorium positively affected household well-being. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles found that households in states with eviction moratoria reported higher household spending and lower rates of food insecurity and mental stress.

Although a national evictions database does not currently exist, the best available evidence shows that the CDC’s eviction moratorium is positively affecting household stability. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report that analyzed eviction filings in 63 jurisdictions nationwide. They found that jurisdictions without an active local moratorium (that is, those protected only by the CDC’s moratorium) had 36 percent fewer eviction filings in December 2020 than in December 2019. The CDC’s moratorium serves as a national backstop of protections, but the report found that jurisdictions with an active local moratorium had 91 percent fewer filings in December 2020 than in December 2019.

Similarly, the Eviction Lab compiled data from its Eviction Tracking System, a compilation of eviction data from 5 states and 27 cities, to assess the effects of the CDC’s moratorium. Its analysis shows that, in cities and states in the Eviction Tracking System that did not have their own protections in place, eviction filings were approximately half of their historical averages since September 2020. However, the Eviction Tracking System still reports hundreds of thousands of evictions filed across all of its monitored jurisdictions, signaling that a wave of evictions could go through the court system when the moratorium lapses.

One of the main findings of the GAO report was that renters and property owners may be unaware of the protections afforded to them under the CDC moratorium. HUD will continue to work with other federal agencies to increase awareness of both the tenant protections under the moratorium and the availability of emergency rental assistance programs. The Office of Policy Development and Research will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the moratorium and integrate any lessons learned into strategies to reduce housing insecurity for tenants.