At the start of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an unprecedented move by announcing a nationwide ban on most evictions through the end of 2020.
Describing the risk of COVID-19 “a historic threat to public health,” the moratorium barred landlords from evicting tenants so long as those tenants made the “best efforts” to keep up with rent, even if that meant renters were still unable to pay rent in full due to financial constraints brought on by the pandemic.
The purposefully broad nature of the moratorium essentially acts as a pause on evictions nationwide, but United Way of Greenville President Meghan Barp said that does not mean the problem of evictions has been solved.
“We remain very concerned in South Carolina and Greenville specifically as it relates to evictions,” Barp said. “We are still hiring additional staff because of the increased need. The number of calls we’re still getting for rent assistance, utilities and food remain unprecedented.”
Tracking evictions is notoriously tricky, according to Barp, although available data suggests the problem is especially prevalent in South Carolina. The Palmetto State holds the dubious honor of having the highest rate of recorded evictions in the country, with about 5% of all renters being evicted in 2016, the most recent year for available data, according Princeton University’s Evictions Lab.
That amounted to 56,963 households.
U.S. Census data suggests those figures have likely spiked considerably due to the pandemic, though. As of July, a full 24% of South Carolina residents described themselves as “housing insecure,” according to census data.
“That has us particularly concerned,” Barp said, “because it means this problem won’t disappear once the year is up.”
Barp said despite the CDC’s moratorium, she believes things will only get worse before they get better.
“The full economic impact is yet to come,” she said.