Abstract: Quantifying the Impact of Evictions on Homelessness Rates in the United States (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Quantifying the Impact of Evictions on Homelessness Rates in the United States

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Liberty Ballroom O, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Dan Treglia, PhD, Associate Professor of Practice, University of Pennsylvania, PA
Thomas Byrne, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Background and Purpose: Evictions have long been connected with a host of adverse outcomes, most directly residential instability and homelessness. This has perhaps been most visible during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the pending expiration of federal and state eviction moratoria was met with concerns of an onslaught of homelessness. But despite the logical relationship between evictions and homelessness, only two studies, each focused on individual households within single large municipalities, have tested the connection between the two. Moreover, there has been no attempt to assess how eviction rates impact homelessness rates at the community-level. To address this gap, we combine national databases of local eviction and homelessness data to provide the most comprehensive assessment of the relationship to date.

Methods: Using data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, we construct a novel dataset allowing us to examine the impact of rates of eviction filings and evictions on rates of homelessness in a panel of 239 large communities from 2007 to 2016. We estimate a series of two-way fixed-effects models in which we examine the impact of both the current and prior year eviction and eviction filing rates on several outcomes, including the total rate of homelessness, the rates of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness and the rates of homelesness among families and individuals (i.e. single adults) all per 10,000 members of the general population.

Results: We find that eviction filings have a significant positive association with sheltered homelessness in the following year. A one percentage point increase in the eviction filing rate is associated with an additional .22 sheltered homeless individuals experiencing homelessness per 10,000 people in the general population in the next year. This finding is robust across model specifications, and the significant positive association we identify is unique to sheltered homelessness and lagged eviction filing rates.

Conclusions and Implications: These analyses confirm a relationship between eviction activity and homelessness, but not always in ways the dynamic is commonly conceptualized. The lagged effect corroborates and empirically expands on research of the trajectories from housing to shelter, particularly the vulnerability of low-income households in housing court where they are unlikely to have representation and fully understand their rights. Moreover, the relationship between eviction filings and homelessness suggests that a higher volume of eviction proceedings in a community, and not necessarily completed evictions, is sufficient for driving up rates of homelessness. These findings suggest that expansions of homelessness prevention programs can be pushed farther upstream where possible. In particular, providing services to households likely to face or have received an eviction order without a notice to vacate, would likely reduce housing instability generally and its unfortunate end point, homelessness.