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Fairfax County sees rising eviction rates as pandemic-era funding dwindles

A notice of eviction (via Allan Vega on Unsplash)

Eviction cases continue to rise in Fairfax County as the millions of dollars in financial and legal support allocated during the pandemic run out, county staff say.

Without the nationwide eviction moratorium that ended in August 2021 and federal relief funds, the county’s eviction numbers could have been much higher during the pandemic, staff told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a housing committee meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 27).

However, residents are still struggling due to high housing costs and other challenges like inflation, stagnant wages and a lack of access to higher paying jobs, according to Aimee Garcia, access and economic mobility division director for Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS).

“We still are seeing rent be one of the largest needs across the community,” she said. “We are still seeing needs in regards to shelter, health, housing search…job search…inquiries around Medicaid, subsidized housing and dental.”

Last year, the number of eviction lawsuits (unlawful detainers), legal eviction notices (writs of eviction), and completed evictions were three times higher than in 2021, according to the county’s Eviction Data Dashboard.

In 2023, Fairfax County recorded a total of 7,618 unlawful detainers, 2,961 writs of eviction, and 963 evictions. Some of the most affected zip codes include Hybla Valley and Groveton (22306), Huntington (22303), Lincolnia (22312), McLean west of I-495 (22102), Herndon (20171), Annandale (22003), Bailey’s Crossroads (22041), and Lorton (22074).

Graph showing number of eviction cases in Fairfax County since 2020 (via Fairfax County)

Since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has provided billions of dollars in aid to assist community members with housing, food and other needs through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Unlike most Virginia localities that used a state-managed online portal to distribute federal funding, Fairfax County chose to distribute rental assistance directly to residents using its internal social services agency, Coordinated Services Planning (CSP).

The agency initially faced challenges with a high volume of requests and slow processing times. In some cases, individuals waiting for rental and utility assistance through CSP experienced months-long delays.

However, over the past year, CSP Program Manager Luis Rey says the county has expanded access to legal aid, housing resources and rental assistance.

Now, in addition to calling a phone number, renters can submit applications online to CSP to determine their eligibility for rental aid — an option initially limited to landlords. The agency also introduced an estimated wait time and callback feature for applicants.

“They can leave the phone number and they’ll be called back to connect for an assessment,” Rey said.

Additionally, CSP works with the nonprofit Legal Services of Northern Virginia, the courts and Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office to help residents understand their options during the eviction process, Rey says.

Those efforts have helped mitigate the pandemic’s impact, according to Garcia. However, she noted that call volumes are still higher than they were pre-pandemic.

“We do continue to see new cases on a monthly basis at levels that are indicative of the continued need throughout the community,” she said.

To date, the county has distributed $150 million in rental assistance since the pandemic hit in 2020, according to county officials.

The county is still using ARPA funds for eviction prevention and rent assistance, but Deputy County Executive Chris Leonard warns the funds are dwindling, and more local funding may be needed starting next year.

“We’re going to utilize additional ARPA for FY 25,” he told the supervisors, referring to the fiscal year that will start on July 1. “…That will obviously be able to help us support the need, but it will also help us continue to monitor and figure out where we’re going to land with regards to what our need is out there for future rent assistance from the county and from our community partners.”

Photo via Allan Vega on Unsplash

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