The Eviction Crisis
“Eviction isn’t just a condition of poverty; it’s a cause of poverty…eviction is a direct cause of homelessness, but it also is a cause of residential instability, school instability [and] community instability.” – Matthew Desmond
The lack of stable affordable housing is the foundation of many of America’s social problems, including poverty, homelessness, educational disparities, and health care. The eviction crisis in America is intrinsically tied to housing security because evictions are landlord-initiated, involuntary moves that impact renters. Most evictions are the result of being unable to pay rent, but also can be due to renters taking on boarders, damaging property, causing a disturbance, or breaking the law. However, in most American cities and towns, landlords can initiate “no fault” evictions, or evictions of renters who have neither missed a rent payment nor violated their lease agreement (Eviction Lab, 2018).
Evictions disproportionately impact the most vulnerable members of society (Salviati, 2017). Low-income women of color have the highest risk of eviction, and other high-risk groups include domestic violence victims and families with children. Most poor renting families spend at least half of their income on housing costs. Of those, one in four spend over 70% of their income on rent and utilities (Eviction Lab, 2018). In 2016 alone, 2.3 million legal evictions were filed, a rate of four evictions a minute (NPR). Nationwide, 3.7 million renters have experience an eviction in their lifetime (Salviati, 2017).
Evictions are a leading cause of homelessness; they uproot households and destabilize both families and communities (Salviati, 2017). Families typically lose their possessions, which can only be reclaimed after paying a fee. Furthermore, legal evictions are accompanied by a court record, which then prevent families from moving into decent, safe housing because many landlords screen for evictions. Evictions also often lead to job loss and negatively impact mental health (Eviction Lab, 2018). Moreover, families experiencing housing insecurity face difficult choices that impact their health and livelihood, such as having to choose between paying rent or paying for basic needs, such as food or transportation. Overall, evictions are most common in areas hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis and in impoverished areas (Salviati, 2017).