Evicted Families Double Up as Postponed Rent Comes Due

Jimmy MagahernJanuary 21, 2021
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As postponed rent comes due, evicted families “doubling up” with other households may rise – along with COVID-19 cases.  

Over the holidays, some of us sent out more CDC guidelines than invitations to family and friends. Opening up our households to include even our favorites was discouraged during a still-raging pandemic.

If your extended circle includes any of the thousands of Arizonans experiencing economic hardships who depended on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national eviction moratorium to stay in their rental properties, get ready to have those awkward conversations again.

Depending on whether further tenant protections are enacted (at press time, nothing was in place to extend the CDC order, set to expire on December 31), up to 150,000 evictions could occur in 2021, according to the Arizona Housing Coalition. Some of those individuals and families will move into already overcrowded shelters, further straining social distancing efforts. But many more will first try moving in with family members or friends – what housing researchers call “doubling up.”

This threatens to increase the spread of COVID-19 by increasing interactive connections. According to a 2020 study by Chinese researchers, the probability of virus transmission among individuals sharing a household is around 2.3 times higher than the probability of transmission between people in different households. A study by the University of Pennsylvania looking at the effects of evicted tenants doubling up in several U.S. cities, including Phoenix, confirmed higher eviction rates consistently led to increases in the spread of COVID – about a 2.4 percent increase in infections for every 1 percent increase in evictions.

“Housing is health,” says Bruce Liggett, director of Maricopa County Human Services, which helped administer the $27 million allocated to rent assistance under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a pool he estimates will be down to $2 million for the period covering January through June. He hopes Congress will reach an agreement to provide more or extend the moratorium.

“If people don’t have housing and are sharing space with others in close proximity, that’s a health risk,” Liggett says. “Especially now.”

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