The COVID-19 pandemic has shed a lot of light on some of the deeply hidden policy and systems problems in America, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee. Chief among them is the consistent disparities between those with privilege and those without, and that communities of color suffer even more than usual when times are tough. Lacking enough resources to thrive is easily measured in eviction data, and it’s easy to see that the trend in that data is not good. We must do more to ensure people have an affordable, quality, and stable place to live during this pandemic and beyond.
At Community Advocates, we have an array of housing services. One of them is temporary rent assistance, which has major demand right now. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have significantly increased our capacity via standing up a Rental Housing Resource Center that helps people access our rent assistance programming along with funds available from the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
We have seen a 10-fold increase in calls for assistance since the start of the pandemic, and we are fielding around 2,000 calls per week related to housing insecurity.
Here is some eviction filing data from Wisconsin court records:
Date Region Eviction Filings
Jan 2020 Statewide 2,751
Jan 2019 Statewide 2,289
Feb 2020 Statewide 2,151
Feb 2019 Statewide 2,262
June 2020 Statewide 3,054
June 2019 Statewide 2,455
There were about 600 more evictions statewide during the month of June 2020 (3,054) than there were in June of 2019 (2,455), which is a significant 24.4% increase.
Date Region Eviction Filings
Jan 2020 MKE County 1,323
Jan 2019 MKE County 1,029
Feb 2020 MKE County 1,071
Feb 2019 MKE County 1,136
June 2020 MKE County 1,473
June 2019 MKE County 1,166
There were about 300 more evictions in Milwaukee County during the month of June 2020 (1,473) than there were in June 2019 (1,166), which is a significant 20.8% increase.
Both across the state and in Milwaukee, there has also been a significant increase in evictions compared to the months before the pandemic.
The housing insecurity caused by COVID-19 is making its way to eviction court but would likely have been much worse without some disputes between landlords and tenants over rent owed being mitigated by rent assistance programs implemented by the state, Milwaukee County, and City of Milwaukee. There are other policies that have already or will soon expire that could also help keep people safely housed, including extending eviction and utility shutoff moratoriums (the residential utility shutoff moratorium was extended from July 24 to September 1), extending the increased unemployment insurance, helping state and local governments fill their revenue holes, and providing further individual and economic stimulus. Congress should swiftly pass the HEROES Act and include these measures and more.
There is much to be done to continue helping people weather this pandemic.