Evictions are rising in the Lowcountry and help is running dry

VIDEO: Evictions are rising in the Lowcountry and help is running dry

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Thousands of households in the Lowcountry have faced losing their home since a moratorium on evictions lifted in May. The numbers continue to increase as the end of the year approaches.

According to numbers compiled through the Eviction Lab Project at Princeton University, Charleston has 3,309 eviction filings since the moratorium started on March 15, 2020. The project has tracked eviction filings and seen three significant peaks. The first occurred immediately after South Carolina’s moratorium lifted. The second spike came after the $600 weekly unemployment benefits lapse this fall. Now we’re seeing an even steeper increase.

According to magistrate courts in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, hundreds of evictions have been filed since Nov. 1.

  • Charleston County: 704
  • Berkeley County: 298
  • Dorchester County: 270

“We expect it to grow through the beginning of next year,” Kristin Bastian, the Grants and Operations Director for Origin SC, said.

Origin SC is a nonprofit organization that helps people with financial and housing stability. Since the start of 2020, it has helped more than 350 households avoid eviction and given out more than $700,000 in rental, utility, and mortgage assistance. Now the well for assistance is drying up.

“Agencies that have HUD funding and have been able to assist folks are running low,” Bastian said. “Unless we get more influxes into our community that is in desperate need of assistance then tenants are going to have much option.”

Bastian says about 40% of households reaching out to Origin SC for assistance already have an eviction noticed filed. That’s an increase since the additional unemployment benefits expired. She says people are getting back to work but they are still trying to dig out after falling months behind.

“They are unable to climb that hill because it’s not only the rent they are having to pay now and the back rent or arrears that they owe, but now they’ve added late fee on top of late fee on top of late fee,” Bastian said. “Folks are feeling like they can’t win for trying no matter what they’re trying to do.”

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