The Dangers of Renting While Black in Gentrifying Cities

Photo by Tom Arthur via Flickr

In another excellent piece written with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Joseph Williams investigates the increasingly deft mechanisms at work leading to the eviction of lower-income apartment dwellers in rapidly gentrifying cities. He does this while also chronicling his own descent from white-collar Politico reporter living in a luxury apartment, to jobless, homeless man.

In the essay, for Curbed, Williams considers various factors making renters at the lower end of the economic spectrum vulnerable — rampant gentrification; rents rising despite stagnating and declining incomes; the job insecurity of the gig economy — and adds that people of color, like himself, are even more vulnerable. It’s a painful truth that’s driven home for him on his court date.

When I got there, the assigned courtroom, number 303, was locked, and the hallway was crowded with my fellow scofflaws. Nearly all of them were people of color; judging by clothing and accented English, most seemed to be immigrants, blue-collar workers, or both.

That shouldn’t have been surprising: “Evictions disproportionately impact the most vulnerable members of our society,” according to the Apartment List report. Renters whose education stopped short of college, Apartment List says, are more than twice as likely to face eviction than the college educated—unless you’re black, like me.

Property managers and large real estate companies have professionalized the forced removal of residents.

Apartment List found that “black households face the highest rates of eviction, even when controlling for education and income.” African Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree are around twice as likely to face eviction as whites, and about three times more likely than Hispanics to get evicted.

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