The Coming and Current Crisis: Rising Rents and Evictions

Little Rock   Cause and effect. Truth and consequences. What goes around, comes around. Pick your favorite, but it was virtually inevitable that when you have a residential housing bubble explode, a recession, massive foreclosures, wipe out 30-years of home ownership gains among African-Americans and Latinos, and tighten credit markets and standards for low-and-moderate income families, locking the door on home acquisition, duh, we are going to have more tenants. Declining construction also triggered by the Great Recession and a market tilted towards the younger and higher income, means there is going to be a housing shortage for these same tenants with low vacancy rates and even worse situations where there is gentrification. Put all of that together and start hitting the doors, as we have been doing with the ACORN Home Savers Campaign, and everywhere the word and worry on the street is going to be about rising rents and soaring eviction rates.

A survey of 40,000 tenants by Apartment List confirms all of what we have been hearing in spades. Their survey found that almost 20% of apartment dwellers could not pay their full rent at some point over the last three months. Income matters, but the problem seems almost universal. They reported that,

Among households earning up to $30,000 a year, 27.5 percent failed to pay the rent in full in at least one of the past three months. Among those earning $30,000 to $60,000, it was 14.8 percent. Even of those making more than $60,000 a year, it was 8.8 percent.

On their survey in 2016 the number of respondents who volunteered the information that they had been evicted during the last year rose from 2.8% in 2015 to 3.3% in 2016. And, that’s the ones who volunteered the information, essentially making it harder for them to rent from the next landlords, so I hesitate to even guess what the real eviction experience might have been.

It takes no guesswork to know that the eviction rates are rising, given the trouble making rent. If the national average is 3.3% from this survey, cities that are in metropolitan areas hammered by the foreclosure crisis are firmly planted in the downward cycle of foreclosure to rent stress to eviction. Leading cities on evictions are Memphis 6.1%, Phoenix 5.9%, Atlanta 5.7%, and Indianapolis at 5.6%. Remember as well the Federal Reserve research report that in markets increasingly dominated by corporate landlords, Atlanta leads the way with 21% evictions in those situations.

Is there any relief in sight? Not really, since landlords hold the whip hand and are putting more pressure on tenants who are spread all over the west hell of our cities with the thinnest of organizational support, capacity, and representation. For example, Bloomberg reports that, “Forty-one percent of renters … said it was hard to find affordable housing near their jobs, according to data from an August survey published by Freddie Mac.”

This is a fast growing crisis in city after city. The cries of pain are being ignored, but it is also a siren call for a major movement and organizational response.

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