What Could An 'Eviction Tsunami' Look Like In Atlanta?
On August 1, landlords will be able to use Georgia’s court system to evict tenants.
A nationwide moratorium on evictions has been in effect during the pandemic as a public health measure imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fewer evictions meant fewer families moving in with relatives or going to shelters and potentially spreading the coronavirus.
GPB’s Rickey Bevington speaks with Mike Carnathan, who oversees research and analytics at the Atlanta Regional Commission, which looks at trends in Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton counties.
Rickey Bevington: We're looking at some major numbers — I should say, you, the data crunchers, are looking at some major numbers. How many potential evictions is metro Atlanta looking at?
Mike Carnathan: Rickey, I'll have to be honest with you, there's just so many different ways to look at this that there's probably not one single number. But I'll talk about a few ways to look at this.
So we at the Atlanta Regional Commission developed an eviction tracker during the pandemic that looks at the number of eviction filings that are in courts in our five-county area. So it's not the full metropolitan area, but it's really those five core counties. And what we're seeing is since April of 2020 — that's really when the pandemic started — we have about 80,000 eviction filings that have occurred ... through last week.
So that's one number to consider. 80,000 eviction filings are in the court system right now. Now, because of the moratorium, no one's being evicted. But that's probably a good starting place for us to consider once those moratorium gets lifted, the scale of the of the problem.
Rickey Bevington: What is the profile of the average person you're seeing at risk of eviction?
Mike Carnathan: Through that eviction tracker we are able to sort of spatially locate where the hot spots of these eviction filings are happening. And it's typically happening in neighborhoods that have higher rates of poverty, lower incomes. And they're also much more likely to be, I guess, majority persons of color.
Rickey Bevington: The U.S. Census Bureau did a survey late last year on how confident people were about being able to pay their rent. Hispanics were the most likely to say that they were not confident. What's behind that?
Mike Carnathan: There [are] number of factors behind it. Now, the census household survey has asked essentially the same question throughout the past year plus. And so it gives us a good look at how things how things are changing over time. And you're right, the Hispanic households are consistently more likely to indicate struggles paying rent and also consistently more likely to say that they don't have any confidence in paying rent the following month. And I think a lot of that has to do with the housing instability that persons of color had coming into the pandemic. And the pandemic is only exacerbating that.
Now, of course, the moratorium [is] keeping these folks in their homes. But since that rent due is still accruing, that's why we're becoming particularly worried about persons of color in these neighborhoods with high-poverty rates. What's going to happen in these neighborhoods once that once that moratorium is lifted?
Rickey Bevington: It's easy to forget that landlords can be evicted, too, if their mortgages don't get paid by rent. Are you looking at any of that data?
Mike Carnathan: There's not a lot of data out there that that shows that. But we know that these smaller landlords are also typically providing some of the more affordable housing out there. We do know that this pandemic has taken its toll on these small landlords as well. We just don't have the good data to say, you know, X number of small landlords have succumbed.
Rickey Bevington: How prepared are Georgia counties for potentially catastrophic levels of eviction?
Mike Carnathan: I don't know if it's a question of readiness. I mean, we've had several relief packages passed. A lot of that money is going through the counties, through the state Department of Community Affairs office. Some of the counties are getting that money directly. And we've been talking about it with local governments for about a year now. So in terms of that aspect, I do believe our local governments are ready.
Now, the issue is that once an eviction takes place, you're going to be evicting a family into probably the most challenging housing market that we've ever had in terms of affordability. In other words, home prices have gone up pretty dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. Rents are beginning to rise now, too. And so once a person gets evicted from their somewhat stable housing situation, it's going to be very, very difficult for them to find new housing.
Rickey Bevington: I'd rather not end on such a negative note. Mike, is there any silver lining to any of this?
Mike Carnathan: People know this is coming. People are prepared. We have great organizations like Star-C. We have the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. We have the United Way. We have philanthropy. We have public sector all kind of coming together to figure out the best path forward for this. And there are dollars attached to that from our federal relief packages.
So, I mean, I do think that those moratoriums bought us time. And I think with that time, we were much better able to develop plans to at least stem some of the worst of the tide of this — of this coming eviction tsunami.