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Post-pandemic evictions trending upward in Ohio, prompting search for solutions

People holding "Stop foreclosure,  stop evictions" signs
Adapted from Fibonacci Blue
Flickr Creative Commons

A down economy and rising inflation have led to an upsurge in evictions for renters across the country. Reporter Cory Frolik with the Dayton Daily News has recently reported on the situation here in Ohio. In this conversation with WYSO's Jerry Kenney, he talks about what he's found, and what some community members are trying to do about it.

Cory Frolik: So, Butler County had the highest eviction rate in the state, and Montgomery County had the most new eviction cases in at least 25 years, possibly longer. The data doesn't go back much further than that. Evictions took a pause during the COVID pandemic because of the moratorium and, you know, court proceedings weren't going on as normal anyways because defendants couldn't go into court.

A lot of court actions were kind of postponed. And then there was a ton of COVID relief funding, a lot of which was aimed at helping renters and trying to keep them in place. But that funding didn't last forever. I mean, I think there are still some funding sources here and there, but like the bulk of that money has been spent and gone, rent specifically has gone up a lot. You know, this is a national problem. This certainly isn't just Montgomery County or Butler County or Dayton, But rents are rising and a lot of people lost the kind of aid that they had come to depend on.

Jerry Kenney: And so, through your reporting, where are agency leaders, advocates, and state and local leaders thinking this trend will go?

Frolik: Unfortunately, this means a lot of people are going to lose housing or they're going to get stuck in substandard housing, or they're going to have to move in with other people. You know, there's always evictions, that's inevitable. But this spike that we've seen has been pretty notable. And there's no positive. I mean, this can keep going. Housing advocates hope that this doesn't just continue to climb, but it certainly could for a while. I mean, there was kind of a backlog that was still left over from COVID, and maybe we're just seeing that, but it could just be I mean, with rising housing costs, this housing instability is a bigger and bigger problem.

Kenney: This is also affecting what's taking place in the court system and with local advocacy agencies who are set up..., their mission is to help people in these communities facing these situations.

Frolik: You know, when people face eviction, one of the biggest issues is that when they go to court, they don't have an attorney and the landlord usually does. I've looked at a lot of eviction cases in the municipal court, and the landlords, you see lots of attorney's names next to the property management companies and to the landlords who are filing for eviction. And it's very rare to see defendants have counsel. It does happen, like there are groups that try to provide some help, like ABLE, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, try to provide some legal assistance to people who face eviction, do a lot better, find a lot more satisfied outcomes in court when they do have counsel, because people know the law and a lot of things that kind of instantly ruin a case for some renters.

Having an attorney can help walking through that and know what legal points to make, you know what the law is. But you know, there is a local group led by somebody with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality that is creating a Dayton Tenants Union. And this union is, you know, right now I think it has like ten members but, open to renters in Dayton. And it's a group that's forming to kind of deal with this power imbalance between landlords and tenants.

Kenney: Cory, you reported on the formation of this tenants union in a follow-up in the DDN with Sidney Dawes. And do you see them having the power to change things, even though there are maybe only ten members right now?

Frolik: That's a really good question. I'm very curious to see what happens with evictions. I hope they don't just continue arising. You know, people are in pretty desperate housing situations already. 'Housing conditions' is going to be a big issue for the city, for the region, for that matter, for a long time to come. I mean, especially with housing prices going up, that means that people who don't make a lot of money and can't put that much money toward housing may have to live in pretty rough places that a lot of people would consider unlivable.

Kenney: Cory Frolik with the Dayton Daily News. Thanks for the breakdown on your reporting.

Frolik: Always a pleasure, Jerry.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.