Rental markets face ‘tsunami of evictions,’ analyst warns

Illinois Capitol News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — A recent report from Apartment Guide shows the cost of rent fluctuating up and down across the state of Illinois as officials have temporarily paused evictions to prevent a surge of homelessness during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Champaign saw its average monthly rent costs for one-bedroom apartments drop off at the steepest rate in the state, from $729 in January down to $512 in June, a six-month change of -29.8%, and a year-over-year change of -16.1%. The St. Louis rental market saw the largest increase in the average cost of one-bedroom apartments, both in monthly trends and in year-over-year metrics, jumping up 6.3% and 44.9% respectively.

Governor J.B. Pritzker halted evictions statewide in late March when he issued his stay-at-home order, a decision which has allowed some jobless tenants to remain in their apartments for six months without paying rent. At a press conference last Thursday, Pritzker expressed concerns about the fallout of lifting the ban all at once.

“We don’t want mass homelessness, and that’s what would occur if you simply remove the moratorium on evictions entirely,” Pritzker said.

Industry insiders warned the moratorium on evictions could create a bankruptcy bubble for cash-strapped landlords and only delay the inevitable eviction for many jobless tenants.

“As people are unable to pay their rent, they can still be evicted,” said Apartment Guide’s managing editor Brian Carberry. “So when this moratorium ends, at the end of the year, we could really see a drastic change with the rental market.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended a federal moratorium on evictions through the end of 2020.

“It’s more or less delaying the inevitable for them,” he said.

After a record surge in unemployment, a recent study from The Aspen Institute found more than 1.1 million people in Illinois are at risk of eviction.

“No landlord wants to evict the tenant,” said Stella Dean with the Springfield Area Landlord Association. “We don’t because it costs you double money. We want to keep people housed.”

“Landlords are struggling just as much as renters,” Carberry said, predicting that “we could see basically a tsunami of evictions.”

“It’ll come to a point where they will get evicted,” Dean said. “Once the eviction ban is lifted, there will be tenants who have not paid who have abused the system who will be evicted. Those who’ve worked out payment plans with their landlords will not be evicted.”

While the long term effects of the eviction ban have yet to be realized, in the short term, many property owners have lowered their prices, according to data from Apartment Guide.

“Some of these higher priced units are actually coming down in price slightly depending on what landlords want to do,” Carberry explained, “because landlords, it’s easier for them to rent something out for maybe $100 less than they might want to get for it, then have it sit vacant and not collect any rent on it at all.”

Several nonprofits, including the Springfield Urban League, won grant funding from the Illinois Coronavirus Response Fund to help provide rental assistance to people who lost their income.

Landlords have called for state and federal leaders to provide more rental assistance funding to help alleviate the pressure of the late rent payments.

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