During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut was credited with having one of the most comprehensive eviction moratoriums and protections in the nation.
In surveying 60 tenants across Connecticut, Ohio and Florida, the group determined what worked and what didn’t in the COVID eviction protections. Thirty Connecticut residents were interviewed as well as 15 people each from Ohio and Florida.
All tenants interviewed for the study experienced eviction or the threat of eviction at some time from March to September 2021.
Researchers began working on the project, collecting data, in late 2020, according to Danya Keene, one of the report’s co-authors. Keene is a researcher and Associate Professor of Social Behavioral Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health.
“We created these moratoria very quickly across the country, because everyone saw that there was this health risk of eviction during the pandemic, and now that pandemic has subsided, but I think it’s important to remember that the health risks of eviction remain,” Keene said. “These health risks aren’t just for the individuals themselves who are losing their home, but we’re seeing health risks to whole communities where eviction is prevalent.”
While Connecticut was chosen for the study based on its broad moratorium, which extended from March 2020 to June 2021, Ohio had no moratorium or programming in place to prevent eviction during the pandemic. In Florida, strong eviction protections were in place but ended by fall 2020.
Comparing the three states, residents generally benefited from the eviction protections, which prevented evictions that would’ve otherwise resulted in detrimental impacts on residents’ health, Keene said. Homelessness further exposes people to illness, often related to being unhoused.
However, the moratoriums also highlighted the mistrust between renters and the housing system.
Programs put in place to protect residents were often found to be confusing and difficult to navigate.
“One thing that we’ve been thinking a lot about is the issue of these administrative burdens that are on the applicant’s side,” Keene said. “There’s so much emphasis put on preventing fraud and making sure that applications have a lot of proof in them. But the counter side of that is, that can be really hard for people who need the resources to navigate, especially when you’re just facing this immediate stress of losing your home, and your emotional bandwidth is so limited, because you’re dealing with this emergency, you’re having to navigate a really complicated application process.”
When moratoria included more procedural hassles, they did not work as well, according to the report. The difficulty in applying for and receiving aid breeds mistrust and suspicion, making future programs that much more difficult.
“In that moment, it’s counterproductive to the idea of emergency aid,” Keene said. “Reducing some of those. One participant said the hoops that you have to jump through to access aid is really important.”