By Sean Keenan
The cost to fight Georgia’s mounting eviction crisis likely exceeds $91 million, according to new research by the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation (LSC).
Per LSC data, an estimated 182,000 rental households in the state were unable to pay rent and at risk of being evicted as of late July.
The report also shows a statewide deficit of rent payments clocked at $116 million, with more than 63 percent of renter households unable to pay and risking displacement.
Combating an eviction proceeding costs approximately $500 per case, according to the research, which suggests fighting the burgeoning crisis nationwide would take almost $2.6 billion.
Plus, even with a good attorney — and a solid private attorney could run you far more than $500 — odds are an eviction filing will result in an actual eviction, according to Susan Reif, director of the Eviction Prevention Project at the Georgia Legal Services Program.
Incidentally, people who live in government-subsidized housing are in the best position to stay in the homes at the moment, Reif said in an interview with SaportaReport.
“The group who is most at risk are those who are paying over 50 percent of their income for rent,” she added.
These challenges, amplified by the side effects of the pandemic, are forcing people of all socioeconomic classes to make tough decisions about how to spend their money.
Andrea Cervone, director of strategy at the Center for Civic Innovation, said during a National Center for Civil And Human Rights forum last week that, sometimes, “The rent eats first,” meaning people often opt to pay the landlord before buying groceries or writing utility checks.
“We call it the ‘Scarlet E,” she said, nodding to the social stigma, as well as the physical and mental health toll, of being forced from one’s home.
Many advocates for affordable housing and champions of the fight against the eviction crisis say more public assistance could help ease what’s been called a “tsunami” of displacement.
Reif said she wasn’t aware of any state money allocated toward rental assistance, and Cervone said, “We haven’t seen a ton from local municipalities in terms of eviction relief.”
Those efforts are mostly spearheaded by nonprofits like Star-C, which has been raising money and working with landlords to help with rent payment and forgiveness.
Still, experts say far more money and work is needed to really make a dent in the detriment these impending evictions will have on Georgia and the U.S.