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2022 Murrow award submission, Continuing Coverage: The looming eviction crisis in South Carolina

Eviction Lab data shows that South Carolina, by a lot and in every major category, leads every state in the country when it comes to eviction rates. With federal eviction protections winding down last year, I wanted to take a look at the myriad aspects of the rental ecosystem here.

This entry for continuing coverage begins in March, 2021, before any federal money was available to South Carolina residents, by looking at a program the NAACP’s Columbia chapter built to help get renters familiar with their rights.

The submission continues four months later, in July, when the federal moratorium on evictions was set to expire at the end of the month. This was two months after federal money was granted to the SC Stay/Stay Plus rental assistance programs, but the glacial pace of money getting to landlords and a continued lack of understanding by tenants that they needed to initiate filings led to increasingly distressed renters and families calling upon social services agencies. Part two of this submission looks at the impact of the rush for help in the small, understaffed town of Lancaster, S.C.

The coverage continues with an “unofficially” evicted Columbia resident (Kimberley Lackland) who’d lost her fiancée to illness and half her income in the hospitality industry because of the pandemic.

Next, an overview of South Carolina’s propensity towards evicting tenants, with insights from Eviction Lab.

Then a look at how the moratorium affected landlords, followed by how the possibility of mass eviction and the need to share living space during a pandemic could have been a catastrophe, especially for people with disabilities.

Next, the coverage asks whether debt collectors will factor into the picture post-moratorium.

Finally, the coverage concludes with a full story looking at why the worst did not actually happen – a revisit to social services agencies, who credited a major education push by the SC Housing Authority and continued press coverage with staving off a what could have been a disaster.

Time limit for this category is 30 minutes; this entry is about 18 minutes.

For reference, below are links to the eviction-related features I produced in 2021 (not all of which were added to the audio for this entry). Almost all were reported in July and August. Daily coverage pieces not included.