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Region Matters Thought Leadership

Tools to Address Possible Mass Evictions in Metro Atlanta

By Aixa Pascual

With the U.S. Supreme Court overturning on Aug. 26 the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction freeze, distressed tenants in metro Atlanta and across the U.S. are running out of time and options, with many at risk of being evicted.

Across the U.S., almost 8 million households are behind on their rent, according to the most recent Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

In metro Atlanta, about one in five households paying rent (21%) are behind on their rent, higher than the 15% national figure.

Adding to the pressure are rising rents. Atlanta-area home rents are rising faster than most U.S. cities, with average rent in metro Atlanta up 17% in a year, twice the national average, according to a recent AJC story.

The CDC moratorium does nothing to protect tenants from back rent they may owe. When the freeze is finally lifted, we may see the true extent of a crisis that is impacting certain demographics harder than others.

Renters head about 36% of the nation’s households, but racial and ethnic minorities, young people, and lower-income families are more likely to rent, according to data released on Aug. 2 by the Pew Research Center.  Additionally, a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that in the core counties of the Atlanta region lower-income communities of color were the most likely to have experienced a high rate of eviction filings during the pandemic. This data shows that eviction filings during the pandemic have been concentrated in hot spots mostly in Clayton, DeKalb and southern Fulton counties.

The immediate challenge for cities, counties, and states is to disburse their allotment of federal assistance money into the hands of qualifying tenants. Nearly $50 billion has been allocated by the federal government for emergency rental assistance in  COVID relief packages to date, but it is up to local jurisdictions to get the money out. The federal emergency rental assistance funds allow local programs to receive up to 18 months of help with rent, including overdue rent back to March 13, 2020.

But these funds have been trickling down at a very slow pace. According to a recent AJC analysis, as of July 20, only about 6% of the $710 million that Georgia and select local governments received in federal aid had gone to households at risk of eviction or behind on rent. For households to ease their burden, quick access to these funds is critical.

The Atlanta Region Eviction Tracker, created early in the pandemic by the ARC, Georgia Tech and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, was recently upgraded with a feature intended to help direct rental assistance money to those who need it most imminently. The tracker’s interactive map, in addition to Census tract-level eviction filing counts, now shows counts at the building-level.*

The hope is that with this tool (and the case-level data behind it) jurisdictions, nonprofits, and others working to disburse funds can tailor their outreach efforts to hotspots of eviction filings.

“It is essential that rental assistance gets to people who need it,” says ARC’s Erik Woodworth. “This new building-level data may help target rental assistance and legal support to residents we know are immediately at risk of being evicted.”

While the Atlanta Region Eviction Tracker doesn’t track actual eviction orders or evictions themselves, and while many evictions occur outside the legal system, the tool nonetheless provides the most comprehensive and detailed picture of eviction activity in the region to date.

* Buildings with fewer than 10 eviction filings during the pandemic are excluded from the eviction tracker to protect the privacy of individual tenants

For a deeper dive into this topic, read ARC’s recent 33n posts:

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