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Encore: Evictions reach pre-pandemic levels in Los Angeles County

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

More than 30,000 families in Los Angeles County could face eviction by the end of the year, as pandemic housing protections expire. NPR's Danielle Kaye reports.

DANIELLE KAYE, BYLINE: In LA County, tenant protections that have kept families housed throughout the pandemic are set to end on December 31. Researchers say the results will likely be devastating for low-income families in the country's largest county, where at least 69,000 people are already experiencing homelessness.

TIM THOMAS: What LA is going to deal with is that they're going to see the highest flood of evictions and, potentially, you know, exacerbated homelessness on top of the conditions that they already had.

KAYE: Tim Thomas is the director at UC Berkeley's Eviction Research Network.

THOMAS: As these moratoria on rental assistance end, we're seeing across the country a lot of cities have reached historical averages of eviction by August of this year and are actually surpassing the historical average.

KAYE: In the last decade, there were about 40- to 50,000 evictions per year in LA County. But at the height of the pandemic, that dropped by more than half to just 13,000 a year. That's largely thanks to pandemic tenant protections like rental assistance and eviction moratoria, says UCLA researcher Kyle Nelson. Now those are expiring, and Nelson says evictions are skyrocketing.

KYLE NELSON: As each tenant protection is peeled off, we see a corresponding increase in the number of evictions.

KAYE: Court records show that monthly filings are now on par with pre-pandemic numbers.

NELSON: My hunch is that when we get the quarterly data for the end of 2022, we're going to start to see numbers returning to 2015, 2016 levels, in which there were well over 55,000 evictions being filed.

KAYE: Among those facing eviction is Martha Escudero. She works full time and is a single mom of two daughters, ages 10 and 13.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO MUSIC)

KAYE: On a sunny Sunday morning, Meztli, her youngest, plays piano in the family's garage, where Escudero runs a home-schooling collective. The three of them have been living here in East LA since 2020 through a city-run transitional housing program. They were couch-surfing before they moved in.

MARTHA ESCUDERO: All these places are really our community and my support system as a single mom.

KAYE: But the neighborhood ties Escudero has created here could soon be ruptured. Her two-year agreement with the LA Housing Authority expired in October. Then she got a notice to vacate the property. The housing authority is trying to find other permanent housing options for families who are being transitioned out of this temporary program. But Escudero says she risks losing the safety net she's created during the pandemic.

ESCUDERO: The housing options they're giving me are outside my area of support and outside my daughter's school, which she just started and is barely getting some stability and balance in her life.

KAYE: Her oldest daughter, Victoria, is in eighth grade. She and her younger sister host their own podcast. They call it the "Sister Show."

VICTORIA: We talk about, like, everything going on, especially in the city, like how there's so much unhoused people. Just having a place where, like, you could just feel your feeling and know, like, really, no one could really say anything about it. Everyone in this whole entire world should have that.

KAYE: Victoria says couch-surfing was stressful. She didn't have the space to just be a kid. She hopes she and her sister will be able to stay put where they are.

VICTORIA: I'm kind of nervous because, like, we got to stay here for a long time, so I have a little bit of hope. I'm, like, more nervous when it comes to that.

KAYE: The Escudero family plans to challenge their eviction in court. But in the meantime, they're making the most of the community they've built during the pandemic, hoping it will last.

Danielle Kaye, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kaye
Danielle Kaye (she/her) is a 2022-2023 Kroc Fellow. Before joining NPR, Kaye worked as a business reporter at Reuters, where she covered compensation policies and union organizing at technology and retail companies. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2021 with degrees in Global Studies and French. While studying in Berkeley, Kaye reported and produced for listener-funded radio station KPFA, covering protests and housing issues in California for KPFA's morning public affairs show. She was also a researcher at UC Berkeley's Human Rights Investigations Lab and a news reporter and editor at the student-run newspaper The Daily Californian. Kaye lived with a host family in Dakar, Senegal, in 2019, which inspired her to write her senior thesis about threats to Senegal's artisanal fishing communities.
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