Following the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium this fall, political leaders and housing advocates have scrambled to find ways to keep people in their homes.
One problem standing in their way is a lack of data. The Federal government does not have a national eviction database that can standardize data from states and track evictions.
To remedy that problem, Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., introduced the We Need Eviction Data Now Act of 2021 which would create a national database to standardize data and track evictions. This legislation would also establish a Federal Advisory Committee on Eviction Research to make recommendations related to eviction data collection and create policies to prevent the removal of families and individuals from their homes.
However, research from the National League of Cities (NLC) found that 38 percent of rural, 30 percent of suburban, 30 percent of exurban, and 22 percent of urban city officials surveyed do not know whether evictions have increased or decreased from the previous year.
A new report from NLC outline common gaps and barriers in eviction data as well as practices cities can take to address these challenges and establish a functional eviction data landscape.
Through NLC’s Eviction Prevention Learning Lab (EPLL), NLC said that cities have called the following types of data as critical to their eviction prevention efforts:
- “Historical data: Collecting historical eviction data allows cities to establish a baseline for what eviction filings in a given week, month and year typically look like. With this point of reference established, cities are better able to understand the landscape of evictions in their communities.
- Data from courts: Real-time or frequently updated eviction data from the courts can provide cities, community-based organizations and legal aid organizations with the information they need to intervene at the point tenants are most at risk in the formal eviction process.
- Geographic data: Data that displays the individual address or neighborhood where each eviction occurs allow cities to identify hotspots in eviction cases and more strategically deploy resources and target outreach efforts in those areas.
- Program metrics: Data that investigates the results of eviction prevention programs (including mediation, eviction navigator, right to counsel, and emergency rental assistance programs) allow cities to better determine program efficacy and sheds light on which programs should be scaled.”
While cities have identified the data they need, they still face significant barriers to obtaining that data, including:
- “Lack of partnerships: Partnerships, most notably with courts, are necessary to gain access to eviction data. These partnerships require relationship-building between city agencies and the courts. Partnerships are also critical to address staffing and resource constraints that many municipalities are facing.
- Lack of coordination: Many cities do not have a centralized department or agency warehousing and managing available eviction data. Further, relevant stakeholders, including community organizations, landlords and tenant organizers, often are not in communication with cites regarding the data they collect or receive, which may create the perception that data is unavailable.
- Need for data quality standards: Even when accessible, the quality of eviction data varies greatly across jurisdictions, making it difficult to aggregate eviction data or to align diverse data sources. Without uniform data standards detailing how eviction data should be documented and described, data sources can follow different naming standards and formats, use different software platforms and have varied levels of accessibility.
- State interference: States can provide funding and incentives for local governments to maintain and share data from the courts, but some cities face challenges in proactively collecting and sharing data due to state preemption. Some states preempt city governments from being able to pass ordinances to collect property ownership information (e.g., establishing a landlord registry).”
The report goes on to profile a handful of cities that are undertaking steps to improve their eviction data and through those case studies, NLC identifies strategies can take to increase their access to eviction data:
- Establish data-sharing agreements and partnerships with courts, community-based and legal-aid organizations.
- Build upon existing relationships with other governmental and community partners to aggregate and align potential sources of existing eviction data.
- Institute uniform data quality standards across organizations working in partnership.
- Partner with community-based organizations and universities to increase data analysis capacity.
- Begin collecting eviction program performance metrics.