The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Eviction filings reach all-time high in Johnson County

County officials allocated additional funds to continue eviction diversion programs.
Sahithi Shankaiahgari
Members of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors sit at panel during a Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting at the Johnson County Treasurer building in Iowa City on Wednesday Oct. 4, 2023.

Eviction filings continue to soar in Johnson County, exceeding last year’s record-high number, and prompting county officials to allocate additional funds to continue eviction diversion services.

In a unanimous vote at the Oct. 26 formal session, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved the eviction diversion program’s request for an additional $80,000. An original agreement between the county and Shelter House was finalized in May, however, a rise in evictions in the county resulted in a need for additional funds.

The county recorded 737 evictions last year. As of October, the county has already surpassed the previous record with 744 evictions filed for this year, according to the most recent data from Iowa Legal Aid.

Funds will come from these American Rescue Plan Act funds given to the county, increasing the program’s budget from $60,000 to $140,000.

Compared to previous years, the numbers are a dramatic increase. The data dates to 2015, in which 434 evictions were filed. Reaching a high point of 720 in 2019, the numbers continued to increase before falling to 537 evictions in 2021. Over the past two years, however, the numbers have steadily grown.

The approval to increase the funds by $80,000 allows the program to continue to help Johnson County residents who face eviction.

Jim Kringlen, managing attorney of the Iowa Legal Aid Iowa City branch, attributed the sustained surge to dwindling pandemic rent assistance funds, rental rates going up within the past four years, and the lapsing of financial resources available to low-income households.

Kringlen said eviction can be devastating for families, especially those who do not have alternative housing arrangements.

“We do have resources for people who are experiencing homelessness, but sometimes they are stretched too thin, and the resources are not adequate,” Kringlen said.

Developed at the end of the COVID-19 national eviction moratorium, the eviction diversion program provides a safety net for households facing eviction due to individuals not paying rent. Iowa Legal Aid and Shelter House also created a weekly eviction diversion help desk at the courthouse.

As part of the program, Shelter House, a local nonprofit focused on providing housing and resources for the unhoused, mediates between landlords and tenants. Shelter House also provides funding for rental arrears in instances where eviction can be averted by paying back rent.

Rental assistance is limited to households with an area median income of 50 percent or below.

If mediation is unsuccessful, Iowa Legal Aid represents the tenant in court. In the first quarter of fiscal 2023, Iowa Legal Aid helped 18 tenants to maintain stable housing, preventing eviction.

Johnson County Vice Chair Rod Sullivan said the decision to provide more funds was made because of the growing issue of eviction and the positive results already seen from the eviction diversion program.

Sullivan said evictions negatively impact all parties involved and the program helps find a solution other than eviction.

The escalation of evictions burdens not just Johnson County, but the nation as a whole. Eviction filings are up more than 50 percent than the pre-pandemic average of some cities, according to the Eviction Lab, which tracks filings across 10 states in the U.S.

Johnson County social service director Lynette Jacoby said the high cost of living in Johnson County and inflation place stressors and economic hardship on households that have not fully recovered from the pandemic.

“We know when families lose their housing that it causes instability in so many other areas of their life, like their employment, school for the children, added stress and burden, additional financial costs,” Jacoby said. “It’s to everybody’s advantage if we can divert those and try and reconcile so that they can retain their housing and maintain stable housing, of course.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Roxy Ekberg
Roxy Ekberg, Politics Reporter
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.