Poverty Law

Nearly 1 million US households were ordered evicted in 2016, database shows

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The author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book chronicling the downward spiral of people evicted from their homes in Milwaukee is broadening his research.

Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, who wrote the book Evicted, has built a database of about 900,000 eviction judgments in 2016, assembled from about 83 million court records, the New York Times reports.

Though the database is incomplete, it makes clear that evictions are more prevalent in many places than in Milwaukee, the article reports.

In the areas studied, at least one in 50 renter households received eviction judgments.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, the city studied with the highest eviction rate, there were 35.6 eviction cases filed per 100 renter households, and 16.5 out of 100 renter households were evicted each year. The study calls the percentage of cases filed the eviction filing rate, and the percentage of evicted households the eviction judgment rate. That translates to an eviction filing rate of 35.6 percent in North Charleston and an eviction judgment rate of 16.5 percent.

Cities with the next highest eviction judgment rates were Richmond, Virginia, with a rate of 11.4 percent; Hampton, Virginia, with a rate of 10.5 percent; and Newport News, Virginia, with a rate of 10.2 percent. Milwaukee is No. 59 on the list, with an eviction rate of 4.25 percent.

The Times focused on evictions in Richmond, where many people didn’t even show up in court. Some people stayed away because the court process seemed overwhelming, or because they didn’t have lawyers, or because they didn’t have the money owed. The median amount of rent owed was $686.

Martin Wegbreit, director of litigation at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, told the New York Times that the eviction system “works on default judgments and people not showing up.”

The eviction creates more problems, the article concludes. Schools reroute buses to homeless shelters, job applicants have no answer when a form requires an address, and families who don’t have an address to receive renewal notices lose public lose food stamps and Medicaid benefits. Some people take years to recover, and the eviction remains on their records, causing problems when they look for future housing.

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