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Amanda Wood, 23, waits to fight an impending eviction notice on July 31, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP) Amanda Wood, 23, waits to fight an impending eviction notice on July 31, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP)

Amanda Wood, 23, waits to fight an impending eviction notice on July 31, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP)

By D.L. Davis August 12, 2020

Yes, high percentage of Wisconsin renters are at risk of eviction

If Your Time is short

 

  • The Census Bureau’s “Household Pulse” survey found that in the state-by-state breakdown, Wisconsin fell in the middle of the pack, at 34% at risk. 

  • Going beyond the survey to look at actual small claims -- eviction filings, Wisconsin’s cases do show a massive increase from May to June, but a decrease in filings was seen in July. 

 

With talks between the White House and Democrats in Congress on a COVID-relief plan at a standstill, President Donald Trump has issued a series of executive orders related to student loans, payroll taxes, unemployment benefits and evictions.

The issue of evictions has been at the forefront in recent months as the pandemic-driven economic crisis has left many people unemployed and struggling to pay bills, particularly for housing. Trump’s move does not extend a ban on evictions. Instead, the order directs the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to look for ways to prevent evictions.

Even before the Aug. 8, 2020 announcement by Trump, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin was underlining the stakes when it comes to eviction.

"34 percent of Wisconsin renters are at risk of eviction," the party tweeted Aug. 2, 2020

More than 1-in-three Wisconsin renters at risk of eviction? 

Let’s take a look. 

The evidence

When asked to provide backup for the claim, Philip Shulman, director of press strategy for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, pointed PolitiFact Wisconsin to a July 27, 2020 CNBC report headlined "How the eviction crisis is going to look across the U.S."

The CNBC report is based on an analysis released July 22, 2020 from the firm Stout Risius Ross, which found that widespread unemployment has left 40% of renter households nationwide at risk of eviction. In its state-by-state breakdown, Wisconsin fell in the middle, with 34% of households at risk. 

Stout is a Chicago-based valuation advisory, investment banking, dispute consulting and management consulting firm. The firm arrived at its percentages by analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s "Household Pulse" survey, taken from July 9 to July 14 and released July 22, 2020

(A more recent update showed the at-risk-of-eviction percentage down slightly, but we are rating this based on what was known at the time the claim was made.) 

The "Household Pulse" survey is a collaboration of five federal agencies -- including the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- that gathers data on the effect of COVID-19 on American households. 

The survey asks people about their own situation, including employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption.

So, the Democrats are on target with the percentage in the report.

Featured Fact-check

Let’s look at how it is playing out.

Evictions in Wisconsin

There were only 365 eviction filings across Wisconsin in all of May of 2020, according to online court records, due to a two-month ban on evictions by Gov. Tony Evers. 

The ban expired May 27. 

That was followed by a huge spike in June, which tallied 3,048 evictions. Meanwhile, there was a drop to 2,430 eviction cases in July, according to online court records.  

Rachel E. Fox Armstrong, communications manager for Legal Action of Wisconsin, acknowledged the numbers declined a bit in July, but said it’s important to keep in mind the spike in June. 

"There are a lot of factors at play when considering why there was a decrease in July, and it would be difficult to determine exactly why it occurred," Armstrong said in an email to PolitiFact Wisconsin. "Some possibilities include rental assistance, people finally receiving stimulus checks that had been delayed, the pandemic unemployment assistance, enhanced unemployment, and people who were delayed in receiving unemployment finally gaining access to it."

Armstrong said that community-based organizations and municipalities, including Dane and Milwaukee counties, have been able to make economic resources available to tenants right around when the state eviction ban ended -- for instance, rental assistance funded by the federal CARES act. 

"We suspect that the timing of the availability of those resources may have had a hand in bringing the filing rate down after tenants began to access them," Armstrong said. 

Armstrong, warned however, that the decrease in evictions may not be permanent.

"We are anxious over what sort of spike we will see now that the federal moratorium has ended, enhanced unemployment benefits end, and as rental assistance resources begin to dry up," Armstrong said. 

Our ruling

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin said "34 percent of Wisconsin renters are at risk of eviction." 

A national analysis using U.S. Census Bureau data found that the 34% figure was on target, based on the most recent data available at the time. 

Going beyond the survey and looking at actual filings, Wisconsin’s eviction cases showed a massive increase from May to June, but a decrease in July. That adds an asterisk to this claim.

For a statement that is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, our rating is Mostly True.

Our Sources

Twitter, Wisconsin Democratic Party, August 2, 2020

Email, Philip Shulman, Democratic Party of Wisconsin, August 3, 2020.

CNBC "How the Eviction Crisis is going to look across the U.S.," July 27, 2020.

Stout Risius Ross "Estimation of Households Experiencing Rental Shortfall and Potentially Facing Eviction," 

Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, Advanced Case Search, Small Claims, Evictions

U.S. Census Bureau, "Household Pulse" survey, 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Wisconsin governor announces a statewide ban on evictions and foreclosures during coronavirus outbreak," March 27, 2020. 

Email, Rachel E. Fox Armstrong, Legal Action of Wisconsin, August 6, 2020.
The White House, "Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners," August 8, 2020.

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More by D.L. Davis

Yes, high percentage of Wisconsin renters are at risk of eviction

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