The Eviction Time-Bomb

July 2020

The Eviction Time-Bomb

How COVID-19 & corporate greed could devastate Latinx and Black renters and kick 40,000 families out of their homes

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Key Findings:

  • An estimated 43,000 renter households are at the highest risk of eviction, primarily undocumented workers and others who aren’t receiving unemployment or other income replacement. That’s roughly 16 times the typical number of evictions filed in a whole year.
  • If just 10%-18% of those folks are evicted and end up homeless (in line with past research), that could double or triple the County’s homeless population.
  • Those facing eviction are disproportionately likely to be Black and Latinx, women-headed households, and families with young children.
  • Without the $600/week supplemental unemployment benefits set to expire August 1, thousands more families will likely no longer be able to cover rent, resulting in many more evictions after the moratorium ends.

This is a joint report with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.

Read the full report

No matter our ZIP code or skin color, having a safe, stable place to call home is a basic human need, especially as we shelter in place during this pandemic.

Yet COVID-19 has cost thousands of people in Santa Clara County — especially Black and Latinx people working in industries that pay low wages — the jobs and income they depend on to make rent.

Over 200,000 working people in Santa Clara County filed claims for Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims just between March 15 and May 30, 2020. Thousands more, including many of the estimated 95,000 undocumented workers in the county, have likely been ineligible or unable to access programs to replace their income.

Without wages, or relying on benefits that are insufficient to cover Silicon Valley’s sky-high living costs, thousands of families have been unable to pay their full rent during this pandemic. While Santa Clara County's eviction moratorium means landlords cannot evict people currently, renters must still pay back any missed rent within one year after the county ends the moratorium. That bill that could run roughly $7,000 for three months without income for the average renter household.

Before the pandemic, about half of all renter households in Silicon Valley paid more than 30% of their income to their landlord. For these already rent-burdened households, repaying three months of the median rent over a year (on top of their current rent) would take 66% of their monthly income. That’s far more than many families could possibly afford.

Most at risk are the estimated 43,490 households with people who have lost work, but do not have unemployment or other income replacement. And for thousands more families facing long-term unemployment, federal UI and PUA benefits will be cut by $600 a week on August 1 (unless Congress acts), leaving many more households without enough income to cover rent.

This impossible situation is the impending eviction time-bomb — when the back rent comes due, landlords (primarily big corporations) could kick thousands of families out of their homes. Unless policymakers take action, we’re facing a scenario of crushing debt, mass evictions, and a surge in homelessness.

This outcome is a public health and racial justice disaster. As a consequence of racist housing and economic systems, Black, Latinx, and undocumented families are more likely to rent their homes, to have landlords that demand an unaffordable portion of their income, and to have lost their income during this pandemic. Combined, these factors put them at great risk of eviction and homelessness.

To diffuse this time-bomb, our elected leaders at all levels of government should:

  1. Extend the moratorium throughout the state of emergency and permanently prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to repay back rent due to loss of income from COVID-19. Instead, landlords could file a civil lawsuit seeking the back rent, which could harm the renter’s credit and lead to wage garnishment or liens, but would ensure the family is not pushed out of their home. This protection would help families stay housed in their community where they’ve put down roots — near their jobs, schools, and support networks. Many cities in California have already included this protection, Santa Clara County should do the same.
  2. Ensure every renter has access to legal assistance, education, and services to prevent displacement and homelessness. Even with stronger protections, many tenants will need legal assistance to understand their rights and fight unfair evictions. A key step would be to create a Housing Collaborative Court, where tenants receive legal support and mediators help renters and landlords address root causes to work out agreements that prevent eviction.
  3. Provide tenants most at-risk with relief to cancel rent debt and prevent evictions. Even with stronger eviction protections, landlords can still file civil lawsuits that leave renters with crushing debt, negative credit scores, and wage garnishments — hurting the renter’s ability to get a job, put food on the table, and pay rent going forward. Policymakers, especially at the state and federal level, should pass policies to cancel rent debt and provide financial relief to renters, unemployed workers, mortgage-holders, and landlords.

Take Action

Tell the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to extend the Eviction Moratorium throughout the emergency, and permanently prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to repay back rent due to loss of income from COVID-19.

Email the Board

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