Eviction practices across subsidized housing in New York State
In a new NYU Furman Center data brief, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Katherine O’Regan, and Ellie Lochhead used data on eviction cases from the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) to compare eviction patterns in different types of place-based subsidized housing in New York City and in other jurisdictions across New York State from 2016 to 2021. Cases filed due to non-payment of rent are the focus of the brief and represent the majority of eviction filings.
The authors find evidence that average eviction filing rates were consistently higher in public housing than in other types of subsidized housing in the pre-pandemic period (2016-2019). However, there was substantial variation across New York State jurisdictions and across individual public housing properties within New York City, suggesting managerial discretion. Additionally, while public housing filing rates were high, the share of eviction filings that result in a warrant of eviction was lower in public housing than in other types of subsidized housing. This suggests that public housing agencies may rely on eviction filings as a rent collection strategy.
Background and Context
Before filing an eviction case, a landlord must send the tenant a notice that their rent is due. If the tenant does not pay the rent within fourteen days, the landlord can file an eviction case with the court. However, eviction filings do not constitute eviction. A formal eviction can only happen if the court enters a judgment of possession for the landlord, the landlord requests that the eviction be executed, the court issues a warrant of eviction, and a county sheriff, constable, or city marshal removes the tenants from the premises.
While three recent studies have examined eviction rates in subsidized housing, the findings have been mixed. One study (Gromis et al., 2022) finds that although public housing authorities account for a greater share of eviction filings than their share of the total renter population nationally, the percentage of evictions filed was on par with those filed by private landlords within individual markets. Two other studies (Harrison et al., 2020; Preston & Reina, 2021) compared public housing authorities to private landlords in individual markets. In their respective markets (Atlanta and Philadelphia), they generally found that eviction filing rates were lower in subsidized properties than in unsubsidized, market-rate properties, though the Atlanta results were specifically for senior housing. Unlike the previous studies, the NYU Furman brief analyzes eviction patterns across different types of place-based subsidized housing and considers eviction filing rates as well as requests for eviction warrants.
The brief compares eviction patterns in jurisdictions across New York State in four types of subsidized housing: public housing, Section 8 project-based rental assistance, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), and other federally subsidized housing. Within New York City where additional data is available, Section 202 housing for the elderly, city subsidized housing, and unsubsidized multifamily housing are also included. Three geographies are analyzed to account for differences in market conditions across the state: Upstate Cities, Long Island/Westchester County, and New York City.
The authors find evidence that average annual eviction filing rates were consistently higher for public housing than for other subsidized housing stocks in the pre-pandemic period (2016-2019). This was true in both New York City and in upstate cities, though filing rate differences between public housing and LIHTC developments were far smaller within New York City. Within New York City, average filing rates were also higher in public housing than in unsubsidized multifamily buildings. However, the share of filings that resulted in a warrant was consistently lower for public housing than other subsidized housing.
There was also considerable variation in eviction actions across upstate cities and Long Island/Westchester as well as across individual developments within New York City. This could reflect discretion on the part of property managers in deciding how quickly to file eviction notices when tenants owe rent.
Conclusions and Policy Ramifications
Overall, the analysis shows that eviction filing rates in subsidized housing in New York State are higher than many might expect. The high filing rates in public housing relative to other subsidized housing types are surprising given that public housing tenants pay income-based rents and would therefore be expected to fall behind on rent less often than LIHTC or other subsidized tenants who pay flat rents. However, high filing rates but lower issued warrant rates in public housing may suggest that eviction filings are being used more often as a rent collection strategy by public housing authorities rather than a way to actually remove tenants.
In future work, the authors aim to shed further light on sources of variation across jurisdictions which may help pinpoint existing policies and management practices that contribute to lower filing rates within the public housing stock. They will also explore institutional reforms that could help housing authorities collect back rent without resorting to housing courts.