Four Eviction Myths

While it’s clear that an eviction is a traumatic event, there are certain related myths that we often hear. As we’ve discussed the social impacts of evictions over the past months following our collaboration with Ernst & Young, we want to share a few of these myths to continue raising awareness around this oftentimes preventable dilemma. For those experiencing poverty, an eviction can have life-changing consequences.

Myth #1: Are evictions really that big of a concern?

Putting aside the emotional consequences of eviction to families, there are a number of larger impacts we need to pay attention to.

The gaps between affordable rent and incomes signal a disparity, especially for those with low incomes. With more people renting than ever before, rents are increasing to match the demand. In an already tight rental market, low-income renters are frequently priced out of the number of places they could previously afford.

Most families living at or below the poverty line spend at least half of their income on housing, with some spending as high as 70% on rent and utilities. When wages don't keep up with the rate of inflation, many families struggle to keep up. When an unexpected expense like a car repair or medical cost pops up, balancing your household budget becomes even more precarious.

Additionally, research has found that just 10% of renters (compared to 30% of landlords in eviction scenarios) have legal representation. This is a reason why areas that experience higher rates of poverty may oftentimes see higher rates of evictions. And an eviction isn’t just a one-step process; it starts with the lease violation which triggers a summons, then moves through a series of steps that can end with the sheriff coming to the unit to remove the residents.

These steps can be challenging to navigate, especially when juggling multiple jobs, transportation, and family life, not to mention access to information and support. Renters without representation and support from proactive property management often experience unfortunate endings.

Myth #2: Evictions are not that common.

Historically, evictions weren’t too common — even in the Great Depression of the '30s. Yet over the years, we’ve seen trends that we need to pay attention to.

In Minnesota, eviction case filings are disproportionately high in the Twin Cities. The cumulative eviction rate in the metro county area is 3.3%, just over double the eviction rate statewide, which is 1.6%. As recently as 2016, this meant that in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, almost 9,000 families were displaced...a considerable amount of families left without support.

It’s relatively well known that 1 in 4 people in the Twin Cities metro is experiencing poverty. Related to evictions, studies show that low-income women are at the highest risk, and victims of domestic violence and families are also at a higher risk. Additionally, other local research has found that Black women are disproportionately more likely to face eviction. Researchers have confirmed that evictions face people of color — specifically African Americans — more than those identifying as White.

Wisconsin is estimated to have 41 evictions per day, at a rate of nearly 2%, with Milwaukee struggling through some of the greatest hurdles to overcome (you’re likely familiar if you’ve read Evicted). Though the two states are similar in the number and demographics of residents, the number of eviction filings in Wisconsin is double Minnesota’s. CommonBond provides affordable housing to over 12,000 people in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, so keeping track of regional and national trends is important for us to best serve those experiencing struggles such as these.

Myth #3: Evictions happen because you don’t pay your rent, and therefore, the renter deserves to be evicted.

According to MinnPost, 93% of evictions were filed in Minneapolis due to nonpayment of rent. On average, the amount due to landlords was less than $2,000. But consider this: many people are one accident or emergency away from being unable to afford their homes, and that can mean having to choose between 2 or more equally crucial payments. A car repair in order to get to work and keep your job, a child's hospital bill, food for your family--these are all critical examples, and with this in mind it's easier to understand how sometimes rent doesn't come first. 

However, there isn’t a single cause for eviction. Lease violations can be attributed to a number of reasons, such as bringing an animal into a no-pets property, or subletting your apartment without permission from your landlord. In some communities, a landlord can evict a renter even if they haven’t missed a rent payment or violated their lease, which is known as a “no-fault” eviction and is uncommon.

The reasons renters don't pay rent on time are much more complex. And we should note -- the statistics reported don't include the thousands of informal evictions, which lack due process for the renters.

Myth #4: Evictions only affect the person who is evicted.

Economic impacts of evictions are big and have a ripple effect. Let’s break down the numbers.

After the eviction, it is complicated to find a new place to stay and often means couch-hopping — or in the worst cases, living on the streets. These scenarios are defined as unsheltered, meaning you don’t have a permanent address. Someone experiencing chronic homelessness, on average, cost taxpayers over $30K a year. Factoring in the costs for health care, mental health, and other human services when someone experiences chronic homelessness, municipalities struggle to keep up with resources to help folks get back on their feet again.

Yet these costs dramatically decline when supportive services are offered, slashing that cost nearly in half. Bottom line? It’s so much better to help people stay in their homes.

We should mention that not every eviction translates to losing your home. In fact, the state of Minnesota is doing better; in 2016, approximately 25% of filings saw an actual eviction which has fallen from 56% in 2007. While we are doing better, we must continue progress. Through our social return on impact study with Ernst & Young, we saw that for every dollar invested on prevention, our communities realize a return of $4. We believe that together we can find solutions that keep people in their homes and continue to decrease the number of evictions that displace tenants.

For more information or to get involved, please email alicia.cordes-mayo@commonbond.org. As an organization, we are strongly committed to helping end preventable evictions and creating positive property manager/resident relationships which seek solutions that work for everyone.

Comments

Diane Hull

As a member of People's Church in Bemidji Minnesota, I have learned many things about some of the causes of homelessness. One is that there are two major predictors of homelessnes. The greatest is: if a person was homeless as a child. At People's Church, the people they help are in the 3rd to 4th generation of homelessness. The second greatest predictor is if you are a veteran suffering from the effects of combat.

Of course all the other factors come into play: Racism, educational issues, legal factors, addictions, etc. These play into landing in jail over the above, but also for failure to appear in court (which can be impacted by transportation problems, etc., etc.

And, couple this with the endemic problems tied to identifying those as "the other" which you mention in the article. Every Sunday we pray for those who are struggling with issues of health, jail, etc. And, we keep on keeping on because that's what People's Church is all about.

Chelsea Dolan

Hi Diane, thanks for such a thoughtful response. You're absolutely right--so many factors influence a person's ability and opportunity to find and maintain housing stability, and those factors often compound into a generational cycle. We appreciate your passion for equity and opportunity for all people.

-Chelsea, CommonBond Communities

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