Report: 1 in 5 households evicted in Maricopa County hot spots

About 4 out of every 100 households lost their homes in Maricopa County from 2017-19, one of the worst rankings of America’s Sunbelt cities, according to national reports.

But some areas of the county fare much worse than others. In some census tracts in the western half of Maricopa County, more than one-fifth of the households have lost their homes. Other tracts with higher rates include parts of Tempe, Mesa and north Phoenix, where 1 in 10 households have lost their homes.

People of color and single-parent households also experience housing losses to a greater degree, according to the reports.

The data in “Displaced” and “Displaced in the Sunbelt,” by New America, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, shows housing insecurity as a growing problem in the years just before the coronavirus pandemic.

“We saw a pretty significant uptick in evictions, which isn’t great news,” said Tim Robustelli, a policy analyst with New America.

The paths to losing a home are varied, just like the stories of people caught up in a tidal wave. Marisa Martinez-Conley’s story began in 2014. She, along with her husband and two of her children, was living with her mother, who then passed away.

They continued to live there until a family dispute uprooted them.

“In 2018, one of my older siblings took the house to probate court, and won the process,” Martinez-Conley said. “She evicted us out of the house and sold my mother’s home. We, at the time, didn’t have anywhere to go.”

In some sense, Martinez-Conley was fortunate, because she found housing shortly afterward, moving in with a family member down the street.

“Displaced” was completed in September, and “Displaced in the Sunbelt” was made available in February. The second report suggested the problem had grown worse since the years covered by the first report, driven predominantly by a rise in evictions.

In the latest report, researchers concluded the housing loss rate in Maricopa County was about 3.8%, meaning that about four out of every 100 households lost their homes from 2017-19. That rate puts Maricopa County as the second-worst for housing loss of the seven locations included in the report. It was tied with Harris County in Texas, home to Houston, and better only than Norfolk City, Virginia, with a housing loss rate of 8.8%.


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Researchers analyzed geospatial and case data for evictions and foreclosures from 2017-19 in each county to determine the magnitude and severity of the annual housing loss. They interviewed stakeholders, reviewed demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and relevant information from local entities, as part of the report.

Much of the analysis was done at the census tract level – small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county or its equivalent with a population between 1,200 and 8,000.

A decade ago, much of the housing loss stemmed from foreclosures related to the housing crisis from the Great Recession. More recently, it is the increasing strain residents experience simply trying to afford a place to live.

“I think in the report it was 96% of housing loss in the county is attributed to evictions and the other 4% is attributed to housing foreclosures,” said Alexandria Drake, who conducted interviews to collect anecdotes for the report.

Worst areas of housing loss in Maricopa County

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The most severe rates of housing loss for 2017-19 were in Phoenix and Glendale, along Grand Avenue. More than 20% of all households within this census tract lost their homes each year.

Other tracts with high home losses include those in the Maryvale and Alhambra neighborhoods of west Phoenix, which have displacement rates between 10% and 19%.

Other tracts in Tempe and north Mesa have rates that are three to four times that of the county average. North Phoenix residents, those living near the Autumn Ridge neighborhood, were displaced at a rate of almost 16%.

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Researchers raised concern that the rates of housing loss appeared worse in “Displaced in the Sunbelt” than in the original study, covering the previous two-year period.

“Displaced,” reviewed data from 2014-2018, and concluded that from 2014-2016 the housing loss rate was 2.7%, affecting roughly three households for every 100.

Who is most likely to lose a home?
Housing loss is not distributed evenly among county residents, but most common to people living on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Most census tracts within Maricopa County were categorized into two sectors: those with residents who lacked health insurance and had persistently high housing loss rates, and those who did not.

One group, about 40%, were tracts that were below the median uninsured rates and below the median housing loss rates. The other sector, the complementary of that, included those that were 39% above the median uninsured rate and about 39% above the median housing loss rate.

The report suggests immigrants and renters experienced housing losses to a greater degree relative to homeowners. Other correlations include use of public transportation and single-parent households. As the percentage of residents for each category increases, so do the chances of housing loss in that census tract.

Latinos and African Americans also experienced a higher rate of housing loss than white people.

“Similar to other Sun Belt case studies, as the percentage of white households in a census tract increased, housing loss rates declined,” the report states.

The primary culprit: evictions

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About 182,000 renters were evicted in Maricopa County during the period covered by the first study. That is equivalent to an average eviction rate of about 6.2%. About 360,000 renters were evicted for the three years in the follow-up study, an average eviction rate of 7.6%. The evictions were mainly in two main clusters north and west of downtown Phoenix toward Glendale.

In some tracts in Maryvale, eviction rates were between 20% and 25%. One tract was almost 30%. Another area in southwest Tempe had an eviction rate of 29%, the second-highest in the county.

Other areas with high evictions included neighborhoods near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, whose rates were two to three times the average, as well as areas in northeast and southeast Tempe.

There also were tracts in Mesa along East Main Street with eviction rates between 1.5 to 2 times the average.

What is it with evictions?

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Foreclosures declined between the study periods of the two reports as evictions rose.

“Under Arizona state law, the landlord is treated more favorably in the eviction process,” said Lora Phillips, a postdoctoral research scholar at Arizona State University who helped coordinate the research for the publication. “The landlords have greater protections. Nearly all evictions that do reach the court system here in Maricopa County are decided in favor of the landlords.”

According to the first “Displaced” report, 87% of the plaintiffs, overwhelmingly landlords, possess legal representation while only 0.3% of defendants, the majority of whom are tenants, do not.

The rulings favor the plaintiff in almost 70% of the cases.

“Part of it, based on the interviews, is due to the fact that there is a lot of demand for not as much supply,” Drake said. “For most landlords, they know they can fill a spot relatively quickly if they were to have someone evicted from their property.”

Maricopa County’s population continues to grow, adding demand for housing, which creates a tenuous situation for vulnerable renters.

The initial “Displaced” report indicated that incomes have risen less than 4% between 2018-2019. Meanwhile, housing costs have increased by multiples of that number.

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That means the percentage of income that residents allocate to housing continues to increase, leaving little flexibility for other needs.

“For some people, they are so rent-burdened, and paying 30% of their income to housing, they really don’t have much of a safety net built. So even having a flat tire can mean the difference between having enough to pay for rent and not,” Drake said.

Martinez-Conley experienced temporary relief when another family member offered her assistance, good for one year.

“That was when they sold their home,” she said. “They were having some issues with the mortgage, taxes, and so forth. My uncle lost his job due to COVID.”

The family had to move once again, to the UMOM family shelter where they have remained for the past few months. The shelter offers a range of support services meant to transition Martinez-Conley’s family into stable housing. The single obstacle preventing her family from doing so is the same one that is causing many of the evictions – affordability.

“When my 25-year-old child was younger, we were paying $700-$800 a month,” she said. “Now all this time later, to look for something we used to pay, its like $1,200 to $1,300. I understand that is what the range is now, but I wasn’t aware of that. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ You have to be a millionaire to pay that.”

Luckily for Martinez-Conley, she was able to find an apartment she can afford. She also was able to secure an interview that will hopefully lead to a job. Both of those elements are critical components to securing a stable place to live.

The first and second New America reports suggest similar solutions.

Increase affordable housing options through better funding of housing trusts, voucher programs and tax credits.
Increase affordable homeownership through community land trusts and limited equity cooperatives.
Develop a holistic approach to addressing housing insecurity that reallocates money in state and local budgets for public housing, public transportation, education, child care, healthy food options and health care.
Coverage of housing insecurity on and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.

Reach the reporter at and follow him on Twitter @rchapoco.


AUTHOR: Ralph Chapoco

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