‘Flood of evictions’ looming in Los Angeles as pandemic protections for renters expire

Martha Escudero in the kitchen of her home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on November 20, 2022.

Martha Escudero in the kitchen of her home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on November 20, 2022.

Stella Kalinina for NPR

Los Angeles County renter protections that have kept families housed during the pandemic will end Dec. 31, meaning more than 30,000 households could face eviction by the end of the year, according to researchers’ estimates based in the county Superior Court records. The expiration of pandemic-era renter protections and emergency housing will likely be devastating for low-income families in the nation’s largest county, where at least 69,000 people are already homeless, according to the latest count. Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The evictions spell the end of the new stability for many. “[LA is] they’re going to see the biggest spate of evictions and potentially exacerbated homelessness on top of the conditions they already had,” said Tim Thomas, director of the UC Berkeley Eviction Research Network. “As these moratoriums and rental assistance come to an end, we are seeing across the country that many cities have reached historic eviction averages in August of this year, and are actually exceeding the historic average.”

Martha Escudero's daughters, Victoria and Meztli, in the backyard of their home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on November 20, 2022.

Martha Escudero’s daughters, Victoria and Meztli, in the backyard of their home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on November 20, 2022.

Stella Kalinina for NPR

Court records show that in the past decade there have been between 40,000 and 50,000 evictions per year in Los Angeles County. But at the height of the pandemic, that number more than halved, to 13,000 a year. That’s due in large part to tenant protections during the pandemic, such as rental assistance and an eviction moratorium, said urban sociologist and UCLA postdoctoral fellow Kyle Nelson. Now those protections are expiring and Nelson said evictions are skyrocketing. “As every tenant protection is removed, we see a corresponding increase in the number of evictions,” Nelson said. “My hunch is that when we get the quarterly data out by the end of 2022, we’ll start to see numbers going back to 2015, 2016 levels where there were over 55,000 evictions filed.”

The filings are now on par with pre-pandemic numbers: more than 3,000 each month, according to court records compiled by Nelson.

Families fear loss of stability

Among those facing eviction is Martha Escudero, a single mother of two daughters, ages 10 and 13. She works full time, juggling senior care jobs and grant-based work for local non-profit organizations. On a sunny Sunday morning in November, Meztli, the youngest, plays the piano in the family’s garage in the El Sereno neighborhood of East Los Angeles, where Escudero runs a free, informal group learning program involving 12 children. at the height of the pandemic. The piano is surrounded by books, pink scooters, and blackboards. All three have been living here since October 2020 through a city-run transitional housing program.

The Escudero family in their garage.  Martha Escudero turned the garage of the house into a home school for her children and those of other families during the pandemic.

The Escudero family in their garage. Martha Escudero turned the garage of the house into a home school for her children and those of other families during the pandemic.

Stella Kalinina for NPR

Before moving, they spent more than a year alternating short stays at the homes of relatives and friends. Escudero grew up in East Los Angeles, but the price of a home in the El Sereno neighborhood has now cost him more than $800,000. Rising housing and childcare costs meant that in 2019, Escudero could no longer afford to rent a house or apartment for his family. Meztli, 10, attends a charter school in her neighborhood, and Victoria, 13, is homeschooled in her garage. Neighbors often leave supplies for the homeschooling collective. “All of these places are really our community and my support system as a single mom,” Escudero said of the El Sereno neighborhood. But the neighborhood ties that Escudero has created could be severed soon. Her two-year agreement with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles expired in October. Later, she received a notice to vacate the property. The city’s housing authority is trying to find other permanent housing options for those transitioning out of this temporary program, which has allowed families to live in previously vacant homes owned by the City Department of Transportation. California. But Escudero said she risks losing the safety net she created during the pandemic.

The Escudero family in the backyard of their home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

The Escudero family in the backyard of their home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

Stella Kalinina for NPR

“The housing options that they are giving me are outside of my support area and outside of my daughter’s school, who has just started and is just getting some stability and balance in her life,” Escudero said. Escudero’s eldest daughter, Victoria, is in eighth grade. Victoria and her younger sister host their own podcast, they call it the “Sister Show.” They talk about food and music and home insecurity, something they are all too familiar with. “We talk about everything that is happening, especially in the city, about how there are so many homeless people,” said Victoria Escudero. “Just having a place where you can feel your feelings and no one can really say anything about it, everyone in this entire world should have that.” Victoria Escudero said that navigating on the sofa was stressful: she didn’t have the space to just be a girl. She hopes that she and her sister can stay where they are.

The Escudero family home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles on November 20, 2022.

The Escudero family home in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles on November 20, 2022.

Stella Kalinina for NPR

“I’m more nervous when it comes to that,” Victoria Escudero said, referring to the looming eviction. “We have to stay here for a long time, so I have a little hope.” 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.

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