MAG News

A combination of Arizona’s high unemployment rate, increased housing costs, and an end to the federal eviction moratorium could mean thousands of Phoenix-area residents are at risk of losing their homes.

High Unemployment, Rising Housing Costs Increase Risk of Evictions in Maricopa County

Housing, Eviction, Economy

A combination of Arizona’s high unemployment rate, increased housing costs, and an end to the federal eviction moratorium could mean thousands of Phoenix-area residents are at risk of losing their homes. The moratorium, set by the Centers for Disease Control in response to the pandemic, largely stopped the removal of tenants from rental properties. But the looming moratorium deadline of December 31, plus these adverse economic factors, may mean more people in Maricopa County will be out on the street in the new year.

“Many tenants have been impacted because of the COVID crisis, either by becoming ill or losing their jobs,” says Anubhav Bagley, Regional Analytics Director for the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). “Many others are just a paycheck away from being able to make their rent.”

In fact, about a third of all households in Maricopa County (475,000) are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, which reduces the amount available for other necessities. Bagley says 210,000 of those households spend more than 50 percent on rent, and they are also one-income households making less than $60,000.

"The current economy makes those households especially vulnerable to reduced hours or business closures. If they lose their jobs, how are they going to afford a place to live?"

And more people are losing their jobs. The unemployment rate in the Phoenix area is now at 7.5 percent, with lower-wage workers being especially hard hit. Meanwhile, increased home sales and lower inventory continue to drive up costs in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Maricopa's median sales prices is now $28,000 higher than the national median.

Less than 10 years ago, Bagley says about 90 percent of homes in Maricopa County sold for $300,000 or less. Now, less than half that number are under that price. The data show rental costs have increased even more. Ten years ago, about 90 percent of rentals in Maricopa County were under one thousand dollars a month. Today, less than 30 percent of rental housing is priced under four figures.

The impact of those numbers is especially apparent in the areas where most evictions take place. Some 77 percent of evictions in Maricopa County are in lower-income areas with higher populations. Three zip codes with the most evictions: 85301, which is along Grand Avenue in the Glendale-Phoenix border; 85035, which stretches from 43rd to 83rd avenues along Interstate 10, and 85281, surrounding Arizona State University in North Tempe.

A recent study by the University of Arizona and the National Low Income Housing Coalition https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/costs-of-covid19-evictions.pdf found between 121,372 and 274,000 Arizona households could be at risk of eviction due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. The financial costs related to homelessness: an estimated $1.1 billion.

"The human cost cannot be measured," says Bagley.

Published December 14, 2020