Where Evictions Hurt the Most

Read this great City Lab post here by Sarah HolderMeasuring the scale of America’s eviction problem has been a challenge—the data just isn’t available. While the U.S. Census bureau promised to start more diligently measuring evictions in 2017, there is not yet a national federal database. City-level records measure formal evictions, but are hard to access centrally, and miss off-the-books instances of (similarly damaging) forced moves.A new report from Apartment List aims to more accurately estimate the scope of the population at risk of eviction, building on data from its 8 million users, plus answers to 41,000 surveys on rental security. The scope, they found, is wide, and growing: One in five renters recently struggled or were unable to pay their rent, and 3.7 million renters nationwide have experienced an eviction in their lifetime as a renter.

In addition to determining the frequency (and threats) of evictions,Apartment List tried to quantify the similarly insidious incidences of informal evictions, and the unhealthy nature of monthly rental insecurity. The survey asks if, in at least one of the past three months, a given renter has been unable to pay their rent in full. The one in five that answered “yes” haven’t necessarily been forced to leave their apartments under court of law, but they do face serious consequences. “If your rent is putting an undue burden on your family, where you’re having difficulty making that bill every month, that’s going to lead you to cut back on other essentials like food, health care, and transportation,” says report author Chris Salviati.

Eviction threats can also compel renters to leave voluntarily, to avoid dinging their credit. That propels people into relatives’ homes or onto the streets. According to data collected in Milwaukee by Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer-winning 2016 book Evicted, more than one in eight renters in that city experienced a forced move between 2009 and 2011. Only 24 percent of them were due to formal evictions. Another 48 percent were informal—instances where the landlords offered money for tenants to leave, or they removed doors from their hinges, or the tenants themselves got up and left. The Apartment List report found that the number of respondents who had been threatened with eviction within the past year was more than double the number of those who had actually been evicted from their previous residence.
Continued on city Lab website