Our communities have been bracing for a tidal wave of evictions now that federal and state eviction moratoriums have ended and the $600 a week boost to unemployment benefits has lapsed.
So far, though, we have not seen this spike. In fact, year to date eviction filings in Winnebago County and the state for 2020 are lower than 2019 levels according to Wisconsin CCAP data.
This may in part be due to the state and federal eviction moratoriums enacted in March and expired on May 26 and July 25 respectively. While there was a spike in eviction filings in June when the state’s eviction moratorium expired, the increase was not sustained in July or August.
Data from a survey of local landlords conducted by the Winnebago County Eviction Prevention Task Force mirror eviction data. Landlords report that April saw the highest rate of residential renters that were unable to pay their rent in full at 10.5%. In May, June and July, that rate has averaged 8.4%.
Many landlords are trying to strike some kind of arrangement with tenants who have fallen behind on their rent. 41% of landlords report assisting tenants by either issuing a forbearance or offering payment plans.
Aid through the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP), funded by the CARES Act, has also been instrumental in keeping tenants in their homes. For eligible tenants, WRAP has a maximum payout of $3,000 per household.
Lu Scheer is the affordable housing director at ADVOCAP, one of the community action organizations that is administering WRAP funding in Winnebago, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, and Calumet Counties. Scheer reports that they have authorized 435 rental assistance payments for a total of $581,697 paid to 222 different landlords. The average amount of assistance per household was $2,519; all applicants experienced a loss of job or income due to COVID-19.
Of the four-county area served by ADVOCAP, almost half of the renters approved for WRAP aid reside in Winnebago County; 28% live in Oshkosh. Why such a large number in Winnebago County? “We do not have a definitive answer,” stated Scheer. “However, we do believe that it does, in part, have to do with efforts of the Winnebago Apartment Association and the Winnebago Eviction Prevention Task Force in sharing resources with both tenants and landlords.”
While WRAP funding is set to end on October 31, Scheer indicated that some renters may be eligible for rent or security deposit assistance through dollars awarded to ADVOCAP through HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grant Program, the Oshkosh Area United Way, and the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.
Like many of us, surveyed landlords are asking, what’s next and when does this end? While many are actively assisting tenants, this is not sustainable long-term. 17% of landlord survey respondents report defaulting on payments or seeking forbearance on bills for current properties. An anonymous landlord shares, “We have assisted with rent and covering utilities for over five months. Given the current job market, it is hard to see an end in sight leaving us with very difficult decisions for our business and our tenants.”
Jacquelyn Jaworski, Managing Attorney of Legal Action’s Oshkosh Office reported, “Historically, the end of summer or early fall is always a time when landlords are filing more evictions. We’re at a critical point entering September with COVID relief money drying up and concerns that many have depleted savings accounts or increased credit card usage in order to stay on top of bills the last few months. We hope this is not a perfect storm.”
For more information on resources available to tenants and landlords, please visit oshkoshunitedway.org/housing. The Winnebago County Eviction Prevention Task Force is supported by the Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund.