RD649 - Virginia Eviction Diversion Program Final Report – November 30, 2023

Executive Summary:

*This report was replaced in its entirety by the Virginia Housing Commission on November 29, 2023.

The General Assembly passed SB 24 in 2022 and it was signed into effect by the Governor. It included the provision requiring the Interim Report and this Final Report. The following is the applicable language: That beginning on July 1, 2022, the Virginia Housing Commission shall evaluate data submitted by the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Virginia Supreme Court relating to the Eviction Diversion Pilot Program.

There was limited data available to analyze in the interim report, and less data for analysis in this final report. There were very few participants who used the Pilot Eviction Diversion Court (Pilot). Reasons for the lack of data provided in the interim report were credited to; (1) the stringent guidelines to qualify for the Pilot, (2) court closures and, (3) other programs to avert eviction during the Covid-19 pandemic (pandemic). Other eviction diversion programs within the examined period received funding to aid tenants in paying their rent and offer tenant support. This potentially makes those programs more attractive choices for participating landlords and tenants, as opposed to the Pilot program which has no funding allocation. While several eviction assistance programs have since expired or exhausted funding, including the Virginia Rent Relief Program, the stringent guidelines, pandemic-related programs, and legislative changes remained a limiting factor for participation in the year following the interim report.

This Final Report gives an overview of the requirements for the Pilot and the Virginia eviction process. It also looks at the effectiveness of other states’ legislation and efforts to reduce evictions, provides an updated analysis on the status of eviction rates in Virginia, and includes insights and information from various Virginia stakeholders. Additionally, Census surveys may provide insights into rent increases, rent-burdened households, and households at risk of eviction. Analysis based on the recent survey data shows Virginians may be at a lower risk of rental increase or eviction compared to national averages, however these averages are all gradually returning to the higher pre-pandemic levels.

Given the very small sample size for the program data provided in 2022 and 2023, and paired with Virginia’s rising eviction rates, it is difficult to determine the scope of effectiveness of the Pilot program. In part due to the pandemic related eviction diversion and reduction efforts, the Pilot was not afforded the chance to be utilized for several years. However, based on documents and data provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary, it is reasonable to conclude the Pilot program was effective in preventing several evictions of tenants who fell into the targeted guidelines within this studied period.