YOLO COUNTY OFFICIALS WARN SUPERVISORS OF ‘EVICTION TSUNAMI’
With eviction protections implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic having expired, predictions of the “eviction tsunami” seem to be finally hitting Yolo County.
“The ‘eviction tsunami’ has taken about a year or two to hit Yolo County shores, but it is starting to hit,” said Nolan Sullivan, director of Health and Human Services Agency, during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Moratoriums on evictions were enacted at state and local levels in order to protect renters who were financially impacted and vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to Sullivan, the bulk of these protections expired within the last year, leading to an influx of residents voicing concerns and needing assistance.
“We are starting to see a lot more people come through our doors with very large back rent in arrears,” Sullivan said. “We are seeing folks that are very vulnerable, older folks with a lot of medical issues. We are just starting to see, anecdotally, these issues really start to rise to the top of our pile of priorities.”
According to Sullivan, before the pandemic, people were coming through the door with $3,000 to $4,000 in back rent. However, now, he has seen people with as much as $15,000 to $20,000 in arrears. Sullivan also emphasized the vulnerability of the people seeking help, which considerably adds to the crisis.
“If you let the eviction go through, you probably have a death on the street or something horrendous,” Sullivan said. “It’s folks with congenital heart failure or elderly folks with stage 3 cancer. Really terrible situations that we are seeing come through the doors.”
Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) provides free legal services to low-income residents, with one of the largest components of their business being eviction prevention. Overall, LSNC has reported seeing a 57% increase in their eviction services post-COVID.
CalWORKS, which also has an eviction prevention component for local low-income families, reported similar findings. Over the last calendar year, the program has seen a significant increase in eviction support for local families, including as much as 300% increases in some months.
“Another key indicator, this is one of my favorite canaries in the mineshaft, is our 211 service,” Sullivan said. “211 is a resource and referral line residents can call 24/7. They can call from anywhere in Yolo County. They produce this really great data to show us what people are calling for.”
The data showed that of the 2,035 calls that were received from July to December 2022, 41% of them were about housing. Housing was also the most common concern among callers in most of the incorporated cities. The next closest topic was people calling for food, which was only about 8% of callers.
“The impact of lapse in COVID eviction prevention is very difficult to quantify exactly, but every local indicator we have says it’s a huge problem,” Sullivan stressed.
Sullivan said they are actively applying for grants at both the state and federal levels, however, he noted that a lot of the current grant opportunities are not focused on eviction but rather on building new housing.
“It is an area that is a bit of a gap, but we do have our eye on some state and federal funds,” Sullivan explained. “It’s also something that we don’t have hard and fast, so it is a gap that we are a little worried about.”
Supervisors urged staff to return to the board with ideas on how to move forward to help residents. Supervisor Jim Provenza inquired about the viability of allocating money to eviction prevention programs using some of the remaining money from the homelessness category of the county’s pot of American Rescue Plan funds.
“If someone is evicted and becomes homeless, that is adding to our problem,” Provenza said. “Taking somebody out of homelessness is a lot harder than preventing it.”
Staff is expected to return to the board at a future date with more information, next steps and recommendations for supervisors.