There are over 19,000 evictions filed each year in Franklin County. The highest rate of evictions anywhere in the state!
CMS collaborates with the Franklin County Municipal Court to stem the staggering rates of eviction in Central Ohio through its Housing Stabilization and Homelessness Prevention Program.
Our Program's Goal & Strategies
The goal of our program is to increase the number of individuals and families at risk of homelessness due to an eviction who are able to obtain or maintain access to stable housing for the long term. We use three strategies to accomplish this:
- Provide poorest tenants currently behind in rent and at risk of eviction and their landlords with access to mediators who help the parties develop a voluntary payment plan or move out agreement.
- Provide tenants with referral services to link them to resources that address key factors that contributed to their housing crisis (e.g., Emergency Rental/Utility Payment Assistance; Job Placement/Training; Financial/Budgeting Education; Public Benefits Determination).
- Provide homeless persons and low-income tenants with a 2-hour Eviction Prevention Education Workshop that teaches them ten dangerous myths about eviction so they may avoid its most harmful consequences (e.g., homelessness) in the future.
History of Our Program
Our Housing Stability/Homelessness Prevention Program began with the achievement of CMS receiving approval from the Franklin County Municipal Court to provide its tenant/landlord mediation services on site daily at the court during eviction hearings (the first time an outside community agency has ever been permitted to provide magistrate-referred eviction mediation services at the court).
CMS’ daily presence at court helped it to identify a tremendous need that existed to dispel a number of commonly held myths about eviction and educate tenants about how to avoid their dangerous consequences. CMS developed and began offering tenants 2-hour Eviction Prevention Education Workshops at local agencies, churches, apartment complexes, and homeless shelters.
Benefits of Our Program
Since our program began, CMS has consistently helped more than 3,500 residents annually avoid losing their homes through eviction. Mediated agreements permit 85% of tenants with pending evictions to either maintain their current housing through a payment plan to catch up on back rent OR get a pending eviction dismissed and receive sufficient time to successfully relocate into alternative stable housing. Voluntary move out agreements also allow tenants to avoid losing personal belongings in a forced "set-out" or the need to move to an emergency shelter.
Franklin County has more than 90,000 low income renters. This high number, combined with the large volume of formal evictions filed here annually (about 19,000), means that the common occurrence of an eviction being filed against a low income tenant is often the critical point at which an individual or family is either helped to navigate this difficult terrain and maintains stable housing or falls down the slippery slope to homelessness. As Diane Yentel, President of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, stated during a recent Frontline program:
"We [in the United States] have over eleven million renter households that are paying more than half of their income towards their rent each month. That means they are one emergency, one broken down car, one illness, one missed day of work away from not being able to pay the rent. They’re really at risk of losing their homes altogether and becoming homeless."
Causes & Consequences of Eviction
Consistently, the most frequent cause for a tenant's eviction is his/her late or nonpayment of rent brought on by chronically low wages and rising housing costs OR a sudden, short term loss of income and/or an unexpected increase in expenses (e.g., reduced work hours, unemployment, illness/injury, or an unexpected car repair expense). As a result, tenants often end up in non-compliance with their legal obligation to pay their rent on time, in full. More than 90% of tenants receiving an eviction notice in Franklin County have no legal grounds on which to challenge the action since timely payment of rent is a legal requirement. (The Legal Aid Society of Columbus relies on CMS to help tenants with no legal defense.) Furthermore, even when tenants do have legal grounds on which to challenge an eviction, they are often unable to retain a lawyer to present their case on their behalf. More than 95% of tenants appearing for an eviction hearing in Franklin County are not represented by legal counsel and have little understanding of the court’s eviction process or how to navigate it. The availability of CMS’ non-adversarial approach to resolving tenant/landlord disputes is especially critical for tenants who have no legal defense, as their only hope of getting a pending eviction rescinded is if they work out a voluntary resolution with their landlord in mediation.
When tenants do NOT have a legal defense and do NOT use mediation, either because they are unaware of mediation or their landlord is unwilling to participate, they end up with an eviction judgment on their record and in a position of having their housing stability threatened almost immediately (after an eviction judgment is granted in Franklin County, a tenant’s belongings may be forcibly "Set Out" of their housing in as little as 6-7 days). Facing an eviction judgment now listed in their rental history, a court order that forces them out of their home so quickly as well as the financial challenges that caused the eviction, it can be nearly impossible for a tenant to quickly secure another rental unit.
Without CMS' mediation assistance, many tenants must either rely on family or friends for temporary housing or enter the emergency shelter system until they are able to obtain new, permanent housing—that is, if securing permanent housing is even possible. As Professor Matthew Desmond describes, “Eviction does not simply drop poor families into a dark valley, a trying yet relatively brief detour on life’s journey. It fundamentally redirects their way, casting them onto a different and much more difficult path. Eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty. …Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”
The YWCA Family Center reports that 65% of families entering their emergency shelter come directly from “doubled up” situations (couch-surfing). The Columbus Family Homelessness System Report indicates that, “for many families, their protracted doubling up started with an eviction that affected their ability to secure other housing on their own.” By keeping tenants in safe and stable housing, our program PREVENTS the need for "doubled-up" situations which ultimately lead to costly homeless shelter stays. Moreover, our program costs 1/10th as much as moving a family into and out of an emergency shelter ($300/family through CMS vs. an approximate cost of $3,100/family to provide emergency shelter and rehouse).
CMS’ eviction prevention services are crucial to addressing the level of harm caused by housing instability (e.g., homelessness) in the community because as Professor Desmond has found, “eviction often increases material hardship, decreases residential security, and brings about prolonged periods of homelessness.”
Franklin County’s low income residents are no strangers to homelessness. As the website of the Community Shelter Board indicates, “over the last 5 years, use of CSB’s shelters has increased among families [64% more families], single women [58% more], and single men [13% more].” Moreover, according to HUD, homelessness has increased by 24% in Franklin County since 2010, while nationally it has declined by 11%.
It is also important to consider that “about 19,000 evictions annually in Franklin County” captures only the number of “formal” evictions undertaken in the community. Research shows that “for every eviction executed through the judicial system, there are two others executed beyond the purview of the court.”
Unlike any other agency that offers tenant/landlord assistance, our program is unique in its combination of eviction-related impartial mediation, information and referral resources for tenants, and tenant eviction prevention education services, all of which are built on and informed by mutually beneficial, time-tested collaborations with Franklin County's eviction court and our community’s emergency shelter system.