By Yeabsira Moges
Silver Spring, MD.
V never anticipated that she would be unable to find work after her temp job ended. She had been living in a small, cramped apartment in the middle of Trenton, New Jersey, with her husband and 4-year-old daughter. A recent college graduate and new mother, V had been searching for full-time employment while working temp jobs to be able to pay rent and other bills. When her temp assignment ended, however, she was unable to find another job that would allow her to cover her rent.
“I wasn’t even making the minimum to be able to pull my part of the bills,” she said. With bills quickly piling up, V, who asked that her full name not be used, was worried about whether she would be able to keep a roof over her head and take care of her daughter. She and her family were eventually evicted from their apartment, resulting in “non-payment and then an eviction.” They had nowhere to go and had to quickly work to
find new housing.
According to census data, roughly 36.6 percent of people in the United States rent their current housing arrangements. A Harvard study from February found that 47.5 percent of renters are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income
toward rent. With the massive job loss as a result of the pandemic, many renters will become unable to pay rent, leading landlords to turn to eviction.
With the ongoing pandemic, it is imperative that as many people as possible stay at home and protect themselves and their families. Yet eviction puts millions of families at risk of being thrown out of their homes. Lawmakers, recognizing the devastating impact of an eviction crisis, included special rent protections and an eviction moratorium on most federally subsidized housing in the coronavirus relief bill that was signed into law in late March. This move, however, only impacts around 28.1 percent to 45.6 percent of renters who meet these criteria and, with the expiration of the relief bill’s provisions in late July, even those covered under the law lost federal protection.
To exacerbate the problem, large corporate landlords, such as The Blackstone Group, pursue evictions so aggressively that the United Nations last year accused the company of “contributing to the global housing crisis.” In gentrifying neighborhoods, evictions are the primary tool used by landlords to push lower-income tenants out in favor of richer ones.
Landlords sometimes intentionally create an uncomfortable living situation for the tenants that they wish to push out. They may start construction projects in the renter’s building, enter the living space without notice, take away services like parking and laundry, or even change the locks while the renter is away.
Eviction carries stigma that can have long-standing negative effects, which is something that landlords exploit. V has lived in buildings where the landlords would tack eviction paperwork on people’s front doors. “I’ll see the paperwork there,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll just take it off and tuck it in their mailboxes because I feel like it’s embarrassing.”
Since her last eviction experience, V is doing much better. She is working at a welfare agency, helping struggling families and renters make ends meet. She recently had her second child and is looking to move out of her current apartment and into a better neighborhood.
But because she has an eviction on her record—even though she is currently much more financially stable—she is struggling to find housing in a better area. An eviction can remain on one’s credit report for up to seven years, barring renters access to their preferred neighborhoods. To expedite the removal process of a recorded eviction, one would need to petition the court in the county where the eviction occurred to have it