Mar 28, 2024 - News

A record number of metro Phoenix renters are facing eviction

Data: Maricopa County justice courts; Note: Eviction moratoriums were in place from March 2020 to September 2021; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Maricopa County justice courts; Note: Eviction moratoriums were in place from March 2020 to September 2021; Chart: Axios Visuals

An unprecedented number of Maricopa County residents are facing eviction, according to new data from the county justice courts.

Why it matters: Evictions are one of the most severe consequences of the Valley's increasing unaffordability.

Threat level: More than 8,000 evictions were filed in January of this year, the most ever in a single month, according to the courts.

By the numbers: Maricopa County landlords filed 83,172 evictions last year. That's 21% more than in 2019, the last full year before pandemic eviction protections.

  • The total number of writs issued by the courts, which enable forcible removal, increased by more than 40% since 2019.

Driving the news: Justices of the peace, state officials, renter advocates and landlord representatives gathered Thursday to explain the data and encourage impacted families to take advantage of available resources.

Zoom in: Renters facing economic hardship should apply for the Arizona Rental Assistance Program, which can provide them with up to $10,500, said April Jones with the state Department of Economic Security.

  • Tenants, regardless of income, can also qualify for pro bono attorney representation through Community Legal Services, said the group's director of litigation and advocacy Pamela Bridge.
  • The speakers encouraged people to reach out as soon as possible because eviction moves quickly — in as little as 17 days, according to the justice courts.

Reality check: The state's rental assistance program is currently funded only through June and is not available to individuals who received emergency rental assistance during the pandemic.

Between the lines: The average judgment (the amount a renter owes) has ballooned in Maricopa County to $3,450, from $1,977 in 2019.

  • The numbers indicate just how much rent has increased in the past five years, illustrating the difficulty renters have catching up when they fall behind.

Context: Metro Phoenix has an extreme housing shortage, meaning landlords often have their pick of tenants, and they're less likely to rent to someone with a past eviction.

  • This forces evicted people to double up with family or friends or, in extreme cases, lose housing entirely.

Proposed policy changes to improve the situation include a bill to make it easier to build housing on land zoned for commercial development and another that would require cities to quantify their housing shortages, Arizona Multihousing Association president and CEO Courtney LeVinus said.

  • "Evictions are a symptom of a bigger issue, which is … lack of housing in Arizona," she said.

Yes, but: No legislative efforts to overhaul the eviction process in Arizona are underway.

  • An overhaul of the process could entail giving renters more time to catch up on payments or requiring landlords to participate in mediation before filing an eviction — two actions advocates at the event said would help renters stay housed.
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