A national ban on evictions that has been in place for most of the coronavirus pandemic was overturned by the Supreme Court on Thursday night, setting the stage for a possible widespread displacement of low-income renters likely to disproportionately impact Southern states.
A survey of renters by the U.S. Census Bureau found an estimated 11.4 million were behind on rent as of early July, with renters of color the most likely to report missing payments: 24% of Black renters, 18% of Latino renters, 18% of Asian renters and 11% of white renters said they were behind.
The states with the highest share of people behind on rent were in the South, including Mississippi which led the nation with 29% of its rental population behind (157,000 renters), followed by South Carolina at 28% (265,000) and Georgia at 24% (563,000).
In South Carolina, all but four counties had at least one in five behind on rent, while six had almost a third of their renters lagging on payments, according to an analysis by Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Surgo Ventures.
The CDC data indicated at least four other states have 20% or more of their renters at risk—Indiana, West Virginia, New York and Connecticut—though the latter two states have protections preventing renters from being immediately booted.
250. That’s how many counties nationwide where more than 1 in 5 renters were behind on payments, according to the Surgo analysis.
At least four states—Massachusetts, Nevada, New York and Oregon—have temporarily banned evictions against those with a pending rental assistance application. Meanwhile, some other states like New Jersey and California have policies in place to protect renters, while not altogether banning evictions. Despite apparently having the most at-risk renters, these protections are not as prevalent in Southern states, which typically have landlord-friendly laws and procedures. For example, South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi do not have any state-wide blocks on evictions, a tracker run by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab shows. In fact, Mississippi has some of the harshest eviction statutes in the nation, allowing tenants to be removed from their homes the same day they lose their cases in court.
This doesn’t mean renters in states without protections will be immediately removed from their homes. There are still billions of dollars available through federal aid available to be dispersed by local and state officials, which could give households up to 18 months of coverage. Though the delivery of renters assistance has been slow so far, the Biden administration has made it increasingly easy to apply for and secure the funds, most recently enacting a policy that allows households to self-attest for each aspect of their eligibility.
“The tragic, consequential and entirely avoidable outcome of this ruling will be millions of people losing their homes this fall and winter, just as the delta variant ravages communities and lives,” Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement, describing the moratorium as a “lifeline for millions of families.”
The Supreme Court struck down the eviction moratorium late Thursday in a 6-3 ruling, arguing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not have the power to impose the sweeping ban. The Biden administration had previously signaled the ban would end in July, but extended it through October at the last minute as cases and hospitalizations surged due to the delta variant. The moratorium, which has been in place for most of the pandemic for tenants making under $99,000 per year, drew multiple legal challenges from landlord groups who argued they were being bled dry.