In April 2016, I reviewed the book Evicted which changed my entire view of what an eviction is and who it affects the most. With the pandemic jeopardizing housing for so many, whenever I see an eviction related story, my heart sinks for any family who is at risk of losing their home.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently had an article on eviction data from 2018-2019 showing how disproportionately black renters are evicted compared to others. What they found was…

  • Landlords are more than twice as likely to file for evictions against Black renters in Philadelphia than against white renters.
  • The annual filing rate for Black Philadelphia renters was nearly 9%, while the rate for white Philadelphia renters was about 3%. 
  • Although Black Philadelphians make up less than half of the city’s renters — about 45% — two in three eviction cases were against Black tenants.
  • White renters make up a third of the city’s tenants but 17% of defendants in eviction cases.
  • From 2018 through 2019, landlords filed for evictions against more than 22,000 Black renter households and roughly 5,800 white renter households.

One of the points made in the book Evicted is how women are the ones evicted the most. That means children are homeless right along with them. The Inquirer reports that in Philly, 70% of eviction filings go to women of color.

No one wants to be living on the street so why is this happening?

  • Lack of money is the main reason. About a third of tenants have ongoing difficulty paying rent and another third said that one unexpected expense, such as a medical bill or car repair, permanently derailed them. Black households overall have less money in savings than white households.
  • Differences in cultures and communication styles between landlords and tenants can lead to breakdowns in communication and then evictions. If there were more black landlords, would things be any better?
  • Some landlords are less willing to work out agreements with Black tenants.
  • Some landlords ask for emergency court orders to evict by calling their renters nuisance tenants and claiming people are using or selling drugs when they are not.
  • Black tenants also are less likely to be able to live with family or friends and so they stay as long as possible in their homes, even if they can’t pay the rent, and then they get evicted.
  • Black tenants are less likely to hire legal assistance to prevent evictions.

One interesting fact in the Inquirer article is how the filing rate for Black renters living in private housing is almost three times higher than the rate for white renters.

In public housing, white tenants have higher eviction filing rates than Black tenants, but because public housing has more Black tenants than white tenants, there were 13 times more evictions filed against Black renters than white ones.

Finally, evictions can speed up a pattern of demographic change and flip a neighborhood in the blink of an eye. That’s the ultimate bad definition of gentrification. 

When all the protections against evictions due to the pandemic are lifted, millions of people who have lost their jobs this past year will be facing eviction. This could result in another long hot summer of discontent in the streets. Get ready!