With the school year beginning in cities, towns and villages across the country, the recent eviction moratorium order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a cautious moment of relief for vulnerable households at risk of eviction.
Roughly 14.3 million renter households contain children under the age of 18, and the looming eviction crises presents added consequences for this group of residents. While the moratorium order provides time to secure more viable housing stability solutions, we must acknowledge that the looming eviction cliff has not been alleviated, it has been delayed. As most households are protected under the order through December 31st, additional federal efforts are needed to ensure that renters are not burdened by compounding rental debt or displaced once the order expires.
These hardships will fall hardest on Black and Latinx households with children, who are most at risk for evictions following coronavirus-related employment disruption and self-reports of lower confidence in their ability to pay rent. Though no direct demographic data source exists, the Eviction Lab tracker has demonstrated that filings for evictions were significantly higher in majority Black and Latinx neighborhoods before and after COVID-19 eviction moratoriums were lifted, creating a heightened need for assistance in these neighborhoods. Cities must begin to explore strategies that will protect school-age youth residing within homes at risk for eviction, to further guard against COVID-19 related learning disruptions.
Potential Impacts of the COVID-19 Eviction Crisis on School-Age Youth
The onset of the pandemic, subsequent closing of schools, and transitions to remote learning not only left millions of youth across the country un-connected, it made them unreachable. With 15 -16 million youth lacking adequate access to internet and technology at home – disproportionally impacting low-income families and students of color living in rural, remote, and urban communities – school and local leaders have struggled to connect with families to assess students’ learning plans and needs.
Now with millions more households suddenly facing the stresses of unemployment and the anticipated wave of evictions nationwide, school and local leaders alike are concerned about potential increases in student mobility. While youth change schools for a variety of reasons including following their parents’ specific professional, personal, and economic circumstances, student mobility not only impacts the students who change schools, it can also harm the classrooms and schools they attend.
Highly mobile students must navigate a labyrinth of new challenges when transitioning schools. Adjustments to new teachers, peers, academic standards, expected classroom behaviors all can present difficulties for students. Learning disruptions, compounded with the stressors of moving and relocating, not only impact a student’s academic well-being, but can also harm their social and emotional development. In addition to the impact on students, educators and school districts in communities with high student mobility experience a slower pace of instruction, higher teacher turnover, and loss of funding due to variations in enrollment.
One of the leading causes of student mobility is residential relocation, which is especially high within predominately low-income and Black, Latinx, and Indigenous neighborhoods. This is due largely to the legacy of redlining, a shortage of affordable housing, and discriminatory housing practices.
Now, as the school year begins following months of disrupted in-person learning, some school districts report losing contact with thousands of students and fear that the compounding economic and health impacts of the pandemic have caused families to relocate, or worse, lose housing.
Local Strategies for Equitable Student Support and Recovery
Even with a national eviction moratorium in place, and long-standing federal protections available to students experiencing homelessness, policymakers must consider the overarching effects of the looming eviction crisis on school-age youth. While many cities are working in partnership with municipal courts to mitigate evictions, there is a heightened need for comprehensive strategies that not only promote housing stability but also support positive educational outcomes for youth within households facing eviction. A stark increase in student mobility, as spurred by mass-evictions, can prove to be devasting to students as witnessed in catastrophic events of recent years.
Lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, demonstrate the severity of crisis-induced learning disruptions on student outcomes where returning students exhibited on average two lost grade levels of learning. In addition to interruptions to academic performance, residential displacement following such events can lead to social and emotional health difficulties as well as greater in-home responsibilities for students, such as caring for siblings or a need to secure employment. In light of these realities, many cities are working with school districts to develop local legislation and collaborative programming that support and stabilize student populations facing displacement.
In an effort to stabilize highly-mobile students, the City of Santa Monica, California passed legislation that prohibits landlords from carrying out no-fault evictions against households containing students and teachers during the school year. Relatedly, numerous school districts, such as the Center School District in Kansas City, Missouri, have developed inter-community programming to keep families housed and students in-place by providing wide-ranging housing supports such as eviction counseling and credit repair services. Additionally, school districts are working with local and state agencies to address the digital divide within their communities and to provide mobile devices and internet access to students in need.
Additional support strategies include state-wide tracking of student mobility rates to ensure school districts receive adequate relief and policy support for students who are disproportionately impacted and displaced as a result of COVID-19 disruptions. In our current moment of crisis, it is worth revisiting how we define vulnerable housing populations and how communities can collectively work towards institutionalizing protections and solutions that extended to all individuals within households facing eviction, including school-age youth.
In the coming weeks, NLC will release additional guidance on strategies on how municipal governments and community institutions can partner in the quest for greater COVID-19 support for local schools.
What are the next steps for cities?
As we begin a new school year, municipalities should seek to craft solutions that bring relief, stable housing and safe school access to residents of households at risk of eviction. Cities, towns, and villages with secondary education institutions will need unique policies as well. Yet even with local supports in place, cities cannot win this battle on their own. Federal support is needed to bolster the efforts of school districts and local governments alike. With adequate supports in place, municipal leaders can begin to partner with school systems or boards, state, philanthropic, and community-based non-profits to support the educational needs of all youth within their community and mitigate the consequences of the crisis at hand.
About the Authors
Alexis Butler is a Senior Program Specialist for Housing & Community Development at the National League of Cities.
Kyle Funk is the program specialist, urban innovation, at the National League of Cities.