Apr 29, 2021 - News
Des Moines-area evictions surge despite moratorium
Illustration of a crumpled-up eviction notice in a trash can.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Metro-area evictions are being filed at record pace despite an ongoing federal moratorium, affordable housing advocates told Axios this week.

  • The problem is expected to get worse as pandemic assistance programs end later this year, Alex Kornya, Iowa Legal Aid's litigation director, told us.

Driving the news: One reason for the recent spike is that landlords know tenants will be offered assistance through pandemic rental assistance programs once they arrive in court, Eric Burmeister, director of the Polk County Housing Trust, told Axios.

By the numbers: The most recent housing pulse survey from the Census Bureau shows that 69,528 people in Iowa are not caught up on rent, and that 109,515 have no or only slight confidence that they will be able to make their next payment.

  • In Polk County, 2,111 eviction filings have been recorded since Jan. 1, on pace to break the record of 6,561 in 2019, according to court data compiled by Legal Aid.
  • People of color, women and the disabled are disproportionately affected, the data shows.

What's happening: The federal moratorium on evictions was extended last month through June 31.

  • It's intended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 but does not relieve the tenant of payment obligations.
  • Yes, but: To qualify, tenants must file a declaration form with their landlord, a step some renters don't realize is necessary.

Legal Aid has opened offices in the Polk, Linn and Black Hawk county courthouses in recent months to assist families in eviction cases.

  • Hundreds have avoided eviction thanks to rental assistance from emergency pandemic programs, but that help is set to expire unless more funding is allocated, Anne Bacon, director of IMPACT, an organization assisting families in central Iowa, told Axios.
  • "People are getting vaccinated, booking vacations and it feels like things are getting back to normal. But for many, many of our most vulnerable families, this is far from over," Bacon said.

Resources: Iowa Legal Aid, 1-800-532-1275; IMPACT, 515-518-4770.

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