Mar 20, 2023 - News

Eviction filings spike in Boston

Eviction filings in Boston
Reproduced from Eviction Lab; Chart: Axios Visuals

Eviction filings in Boston have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the Eviction Lab.

State of play: The Princeton University project recorded a weekly eviction filing rate for Boston of 111, based on the average of data over a four-week period ending March 4.

  • That rate was up 73.8% from a year ago, when there was a weekly average of 64 filings.
  • The Eviction Lab project aims to fill an "information hole in the center of the evictions crisis" by collecting data from court filings and other sources, research specialist Jacob Haas told Axios.

Driving the news: Sweeping local and national eviction moratoriums helped keep many families in their homes through the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. With those moratoriums long since over, many Americans are once again exposed to the threat of displacement.

  • That's especially true as high rent prices have renters spending record shares of their paychecks on their monthly housing bills.
  • The eviction crisis tends to disproportionately affect minority groups — particularly Black women, says Haas.

Zoom in: Massachusetts housing advocates sounded the alarm about a potential "eviction tsunami" when the state eviction moratorium lifted in October 2020 and the federal moratorium lifted the next year.

  • Nearly 17 months later, that tsunami appears to have landed.

What they're saying: "We've seen a return to or beyond pre-pandemic averages in a large number of areas where we've been tracking [evictions] data," says Haas.

  • "To return to that is disappointing given all of the initiatives that were taken to prevent housing instability."

Of note: The Eviction Lab notes that its data doesn't capture illegal evictions or cases where renters are effectively forced out by large rent hikes, and it may be undercounting recent evictions due to processing delays.

The big picture: Some cities, such as Philadelphia and Cleveland, have recently launched or expanded programs meant to help tenants access financial relief, stay in their homes amid eviction disputes or mediate disputes with landlords.

  • "Good cause" bills, meanwhile, aim to restrict evictions to cases where tenants violate their lease agreements, as well as limit major rent increases.

The bottom line: The Eviction Lab's data set, which includes 34 cities, is the closest thing available to a nationwide evictions database.

  • That data void makes it all but impossible to adequately track — and therefore address — the problem at scale.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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