'It's going to be worse': Evictions increasing across North Carolina

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Monday, September 19, 2022
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Nearly 15,000 evictions were filed across North Carolina last month; almost double the number filed in August 2021.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The number of people facing evictions is creeping up across the state.

Nearly 15,000 evictions were filed across North Carolina last month; almost double the number filed in August 2021.

While the number is still lower than pre-pandemic levels, housing advocates believe evictions will continue to increase.

"It's going to be worse than 2019. In 2019, we did not see as much turnover in ownership and property management and so that has been in part because of the market force and people are selling off properties," said Sarah D'Amato, the program director of the Durham Eviction Diversion Program.

D'Amato explained often landlords choose not to renew month-to-month leases or increase rent, forcing long-time renters out.

"If you've been paying $800 a month for three years and now they want you to renew a lease at $1,600 a month or move out, where do you go?" she questioned. "They don't have that option to find renting rental opportunities that are reasonable at this point."

D'Amato said her office has started fielding around twice the amount of cases in recent months that they were before the pandemic. She said part of this is due to the start of a courthouse clinic that increases residents' awareness of the resources that Legal Aid has.

In Durham, recent data from NC Courts showed three times more evictions were filed last month than in 2021.

D'Amato explained August was one of the first months that emergency rental assistance funds would have started to expire.

"The only program right now for rent assistance that we are aware of is through the Department of Social Services, and that is still there's more limitations on that than the previous programs. And so then people aren't weren't able to pay their August rent, and then the filings started," she said.

Evictions are also up in Wake County and Cumberland County but not by as high of a rate.

"So where they could have previously exited and gone to another opportunity, there's nowhere for them to go," said Russel Pierce, the executive director of Housing for New Hope. "With nowhere else to go, you're going to hang on to what you've got as long as you possibly can."

Pierce said his organization is noticing an increase in entire families living out of their cars, a situation that he said wasn't the case before the pandemic.

While evictions remain a problem in almost every community, NC Data Works reported that 75% of Durham County's recent evictions occurred in communities where a majority of residents were People of Color.

"Durham historically has a population of about 40% African Americans. The populations we serve tend to be 80% African Americans. I mean, right there we see that disproportionate piece, but so much of the rental population here has been African American and so when you have these gentrification pieces happening and folks coming in buying the homes that have been rentals, the impact is just going to be right there for African Americans who've been long term renters," Pierce said.

Pierce said Housing for New Hope is working across community organizations to make changes.

"What we're needing to do is go beyond kind of our traditional partners for landlords, work with more of the corporate partners in the community and work with some of the new folks that are coming into Durham to help them understand what part of being a good citizen part of being a part of Durham is helping us have housing for all and make sure that Durham remains for all," Pierce said.

He also pointed to efforts underway to create affordable housing options but these efforts need time to have an impact.

D'Amato also pointed to solutions in increasing education on homeownership and assistance programs.

Legal Aid's courthouse clinic is open Monday - Friday from 9 am. to noon and accepts people without an appointment. For more information, those in need can visit https://www.legalaidnc.org/about-us/projects/durham-eviction-diversion-program.

WATCH: In July ABC11 reported on increase in evictions in parts of Central North Carolina.