With astronomical eviction numbers and nowhere to go, British Columbia “returns to normal”

The Balanced Supply of Housing Research Cluster at the University of British Columbia released a report last week, “Estimating no-fault evictions in Canada: Understanding BC’s disproportionate eviction rate in the 2021 Canadian housing survey”. Looking at data from the 2021 Canadian Housing Survey, researchers wanted to find out eviction rates, reasons for evictions, and what happened in the first period of the Covid pandemic. On all counts, British Columbia scored the highest, or failed the most profoundly, depending on one’s perspective. Between April 2016 and early 2021, 10.5% of B.C. renter households reported being forced to move, compared with the national rate of 5.9%. At some level, none of this was surprising or new, since British Columbia has consistently led the nation in evictions. What was new is this: “British Columbia’s high eviction rate is driven by higher rates of no-fault evictions …. 85% of evictions reported by renter households in British Columbia in the five years prior to data collection were no-fault evictions.” Paid your rent on time, the landlord never had any issues with you, you were an ideal tenant? Who cares? You’re out. And not only are you out, you have nowhere to go. They call that market-forces justice.

Here’s more market forces justice. Most provinces had some sort of eviction ban during the Covid pandemic, and yet the number of evictions remained relatively stable. How can that be? According to the report, there are at least two reasons. First, once the bans were lifted, eviction processes were “accelerated”. Second, “despite all the eviction bans that were implemented, at least 38,900 – 68,080 renter households were evicted during the first year of the pandemic in Canada.” Were landlords punished for these evictions? No. That too is market-forces justice.

In British Columbia, there is rent control for those who living in a unit. There are no controls or limits on how much a landlord can charge a new tenant. There are no real controls on no-fault evictions. A landlord simply has to claim they want to sell, inhabit, renovate, repair, or demolish the property. There’s no requirement of proof of any kind. Many of those who were evicted report that their former homes remain vacant for months, even years, afterwards. There’s no enforcement because there’s nothing to enforce.

Fiona Scott lives in Vancouver. In the past decade, she endured three no-fault evictions. The last one was over a year ago. The unit she used to call home remains vacant to this day. Meanwhile Fiona Scott lives in a much smaller apartment, for which she pays $500 more a month, and so has had to take on extra work. “You have an emotional connection to your house, it’s your safe space… and then all of a sudden it’s gone. It wasn’t an emotional journey I was prepared for.”

Linda de Gonzalez is a 70-year-old pensioner who has lived in her apartment for 20 years. This year the landlord raised the rent 43%, starting in June. But what about rent control? The landlord said that if de Gonzalez didn’t accept the exorbitant increase, he’d sell the unit. Again, there’s no requirement of proof. “It really was utterly and completely devastating. I literally felt my stomach fall out. I just sat on the floor and I cried and I cried and I cried. And I kept thinking what am I going to do? I have nowhere to go.” I have nowhere to go.

A second report, issued by Vancouver’s First United Church Eviction Mapping Project, found that 27% of evicted people had not found a place to live. 45% of Indigenous respondents had not found a place to live. 31% of people of color had not found a place to live. 34% of people living with disabilities had not found a place to live. For those in the lowest income bracket, 53% had not found a place to live. “People with an annual income of less than $50,000 were almost three times as likely to become homeless than those with an annual income of over $50,000.” Meanwhile, 12% of those earning more than $50,000 a year had not found a place to live. Of those who did find somewhere to live, for most it had to be in a new neighborhood, meaning no support systems. 80% of evicted residents reported neighborhood displacement. For evicted Indigenous residents, that was 91%.

The report notes, “For many evicted tenants, homelessness was long-term as they struggled to find a way back into the rental housing market amidst massive increases in the amount of rent landlords are charging.” Homeless was, and is, long-term.

As Anne Waldman once wrote,

“it is error it is speculation it is real estate

      it is the villain and comic slippery words

            the work of despotic wills to make money”

Nowhere to go, nowhere to go, nowhere to go.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Infographic: The University of British Columbia)


In Woodstock, Cape Town, South Africa, the struggle for housing is a struggle for home

120-128 Bromwell Street

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa consists of a Preamble and 14 chapters. Chapter 1 provides the “founding provisions” and opens: “The Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values: Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. Non-racialism and non-sexism. Supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. Universal adult suffrage, a national common voters roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.” It’s a promising beginning. Chapter 2 is titled “Bill of Rights” and begins: “This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. The state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights.” Section 26 of the Constitution, located in Chapter 2, concerns housing and so much more: “Housing: Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing. The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right. No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.” This is one of only two occasions on which the Constitution discusses “home”. The other, Section 14, articulates the right to privacy: “Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have their person or home searched.” There’s a great deal, though not enough, of discussion these days of `homelessness’. Recently, that condition has been somewhat refined by calling the loss of housing the state of being unhoused. While a welcome intervention, this still doesn’t tell us what home is.

Beyond the right to access to adequate housing and the right to not be arbitrarily evicted or have one’s home arbitrarily demolished, what is the State’s responsibility to something they, the inhabitants, residents, neighbors, community, call home? This is a particularly poignant question in a country marked by a history of forced mass dislocations, a description as apt for the United States, Brazil, India, England, as South Africa. Nevertheless, when the authors of the South African Constitution codified the right to housing, they remembered, acutely, the dislocations, demolitions and deprivations of housing and home under the apartheid regime. And today? Consider a court decision rendered today by the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, concerning the rights of residents in the Woodstock neighborhood of Cape Town. While today’s decision may mark a turning point, it is not the end of the story.

For some, the story would start on October 30, 2013, when The Woodstock Hub bought 120 to 128 Bromwell Street. On June 30, 2014, residents were served eviction notices and given a month to clear out. Residents, 26 in all including children, began organizing. They went to court. In 2016, the Cape High Court decided in favor of the landlord. The residents’ attorneys argued that at the very least the City had an obligation to move the residents into nearby and adequate housing. Instead, the City proposed to move them to Wolwerivier, far from the city center and with absolutely no public transportation whatsoever. Woodstock, on the other hand, is one of the most centrally located suburbs in Cape Town, and while it managed to avoid forced removals in the 1950s, its location has meant wave upon wave of gentrification, displacement, and struggle. With that in mind, the residents and their attorneys appealed the decision.

In 2021, five years later, the Cape Town High Court decided that the City’s plan for removal to Wolwerivier was indeed unconstitutional. The Court ruled the City must find the residents emergency housing as near as feasibly possible and within the year. In response, The Woodstock Hub appealed, and that’s where we are today. Today, the Court ruled the City plan is not unconstitutional, because the earlier decision “did not identify the extent of invalidity for the City to rectify in its order.” On the other hand, the Court did say the City must provide adequate housing “in a location as near as possible to where they currently reside” before the end of May. It’s a mixed decision. Whether the residents will accept or appeal is unknown just now.

120 to 128 Bromwell Street has been, and is, home to these residents. Brenda Smith is 82 years old. She was born in 128 Bromwell Street. Today, she lives in 128 Bromwell Street. Charnell Commando is 36 years old. She has lived on Bromwell Street all her life. In fact, her parents, grandparents, and great grandparents also were born and lived at her current address. Graham Beukes, 42 years old, has lived all his life at his current Bromwell Street address, where his parents lived for 50 years. What `value’ does their history, do their lives, have? What is home?


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit 1: Rejul Bejoy / GroundUp) (Photo Credit 2: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp)

Landmark cases: In Massachusetts, Nebraska, Black women demand housing justice for all!

Two “landmark cases” hit the news this week, both involving the rights and dignity of Black women. In Massachusetts, Mary Louis, of Malden, and Monica Douglas, of Canton, both Black women with housing vouchers, sued SafeRent and Metropolitan Management Group in US District Court for applying racial discrimination in their tenant screening software. This week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing filed a statement of interest in support of Louis’ and Douglas’ claim. In Nebraska, Teresa Holcomb, a Black resident of Omaha, faces eviction, filed by NP Dodge Management. Ms. Holcomb’s attorneys, from Legal Aid of Nebraska and Nebraska Appleseed, are arguing that Ms. Holcomb has the right to a trial by jury. The Nebraska Supreme Court began hearings on Wednesday.

On May 25, 2022, attorneys representing Mary Louis, Monica Douglas, and the Community Action Agency of Somerville filed a lawsuit, in federal court, arguing that SafeRent, a national tenant screening provider, had been violating the Fair Housing Act for years by consistently giving low scores to Black and Latino rental applicants holding federally funded housing vouchers, causing them to be denied housing. This week, U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins for the District of Massachusetts explained, “Algorithms are written by people. As such, they are susceptible to all of the biases, implicit or explicit, of the people that create them. As the housing industry and other professions adopt algorithms into their everyday decisions, there can be disparate impacts on certain protected communities. Stable and affordable housing provides a unique pathway to success, opportunity and safety. We must fiercely protect the rights and protections promulgated in the Fair Housing Act. Today’s filing recognizes that our 20th century civil rights laws apply to 21st century innovations.”

SafeRent Solutions used to be called CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions. CoreLogic was sued, in Connecticut, “for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminatory use of criminal records as rental criteria.” That court ruling is pending.

On Wednesday, January 11, Nebraska’s Supreme Court began hearing NP Dodge Management Company v. Holcomb. Teresa Holcomb got into an argument with two other tenants in a common area. NP Dodge Management Company filed for eviction, claiming Ms. Holcomb had violated the crime-free housing clause by threatening residents. Ms. Holcomb disputed that claim. The original court found in the landlords’ favor. Ms. Holcomb appealed, arguing that she had a constitutional right to a trial by jury to determine whose narrative, the tenant’s or the landlord’s, should prevail. In an Amicus brief, the local ACLU and NAACP opened their arguments in support of Teresa Holcomb, “This appeal puts before the Court a historical issue of the right to a jury trial on factual issues in an eviction trial, a matter of special importance to women, especially Black women, and their children, as well as people with disabilities.”

Last year, 9.3 million people in the United States received housing assistance. Of households receiving public housing assistance, 75% were female-headed. From discrimination in credit screening to discrimination in court, eviction, the right to decent and secure housing, and justice in housing are a matter of special importance to women, especially Black women, and their children, as well as people with disabilities.


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Silver State Fair Housing Coalition) (Photo Credit: WNYC / Michael Dwyer / AP)

For counties with higher proportions of Black and women renters, eviction is a death sentence

If you’re a Black woman in the United States, your chance of being evicted is higher than any other demographic.

News Medical reports, today, “U.S. counties with more evictions have higher mortality rates, study finds”. Earlier in the week, Newswise reported “Mortality rates are higher in U.S. counties with more evictions, UTSW researchers find”. Both reports are based on a study, published in early November, “Association of US County-Level Eviction Rates and All-Cause Mortality”, which looked at 2016 data from 686 U.S. counties “to evaluate the independent association of county-level eviction rates with all-cause mortality in the USA”. The researchers found “county-level eviction rates were significantly associated with all-cause mortality with the strongest effects observed among counties with the highest proportion of Black and women residents.” More Black, more women, more eviction, more death. Again, this is neither tsunami nor wave nor is it particularly surprising, even if horrifying. This is a national pogrom, and, remember, this data is from 2016, in the Before Times, when everything was “normal”

In “normal” times, women were more likely to be evicted than men: “eviction rates were four percent higher for black women than among black men and nine percent higher for Latinx women relative to Latinx men”. That was then, and it still is now, or worse.  In the “normal times”, the times we are told we all want to return to, eviction, pandemic in Black and Brown communities, targeted Black and Brown women. Now we know the fatal consequences of that campaign.

The county-level study found “the relationship between eviction and mortality was strongest in the subgroup of counties with a proportion of women above the median (high), among whom mortality rates were 13.19 deaths (per 100,000 individuals) higher for every 1% higher eviction rate, representing a more than fivefold difference compared to counties with a lower proportion of women.” The same was more or less true for counties with equivalent proportions of Black residents. Again, for every 1% increase in eviction rate, 13 women died.

In August 2021, we noted, “We `learn’ this week that in Virginia, the Virginia that has improved on its shameful history of mass evictions, high eviction rates, and easy eviction procedures, in that Virginia, “Black women … are disproportionately evicted.” We “learn” this week that in New York, the New York that only recently started distributing any rent relief funds, Black women make up nearly two-thirds of those applying for rent relief. Again, that relief has only now started, barely, reaching people.” This week, we `learn’ that Black women being disproportionately evicted is a death sentence. Eviction is an existential crisis, both for those being evicted and for the community. It is a matter of life and death, at the center of which are Black women.


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Ariana Torrey / USA Today)

(Infographic Credit: Journal of General Internal Medicine)

Los Angeles faces a “flood of evictions”

With over 10 million residents, and counting, Los Angeles County is far and away the most populous county in the United States. Next in line is Cook County, Illinois, with just over 5 million inhabitants. Los Angeles County will end its pandemic-era tenant protections December 31. With just over 4 million residents, the City of Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States. The City of Los Angeles eviction moratorium will expire January 31, 2023. This morning’s NPR headline read: “‘Flood of evictions’ looms in Los Angeles as pandemic tenant protections expire”. While the situation is dire, sometimes a metaphor hides as much as it reveals, and that is the case with the flood of evictions image. The same is true of the phrase “mass eviction.”

As today’s article accurately reports, according to Tim Thomas, director of UC Berkeley’s Eviction Research Network, Los Angeles “going to see the highest flood of evictions and, potentially, exacerbated homelessness on top of the conditions that they already had. As these moratoria and rental assistance end, we’re seeing across the country a lot of cities have reached historical averages of eviction by August of this year — and are actually surpassing the historical average.” And it’s not only cities. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, eviction rates in Oklahoma are at an all-time high. That’s not eviction filings but evictions. Eviction filings are also at an all-time high. Return to normal has meant skyrocketing rents, eviction filings, eviction, instability, disruption, menace.

The problem with `floods’ and `mass’ is that they suggest an immediately perceptible phenomenon. What is a flood, after all? “An overflowing or irruption of a great body of water over land not usually submerged; an inundation, a deluge.” You can see the flood, immediately. You can hear the flood, and often you can even the smell the flood. The immediate impact is plainly visible. And that is precisely what does not happen in the kind of mass eviction engineered by corporate and hedge fund landlords. They don’t come in with bulldozers and remove whole blocks of residences. They work more or less privately and individually. You don’t see the harm to the neighborhood, to the community. Half the time, people leave before the sheriffs come, and so you don’t have the tragedy of family possessions thrown out into the streets.

In Baltimore, Maryland, there’s a new sheriff in town, literally: Sheriff Sam Cogen. On Thursday, Sheriff Cogen ended the policy of posting eviction notices in apartment complex common areas. As Sheriff Cogen explained, the posting of eviction notices in plain sight for everyone to read “was raised as an issue a while ago and the attorney general weighed in on an opinion and said that, barring any extraordinary circumstances, that the deputies should be posting on the individual doors, not on the common door, not on a mailbox, out in the lobby, not by an elevator. And to me, that’s a more difficult thing to do, but it’s also the more correct thing to do and the more humane thing to do, and we’re talking about trying to humanize this process as best as we can because what we need to do is we need to let the tenant know, absolutely and with certainty, give them notice that there’s an eviction proceeding.”

Delivering the eviction notice to the actual intended recipient is a reasonable first step. A greater step would be to extend, renew or initiate eviction moratoria and eviction diversion programs. The Scarlet E stigma and condemnation of eviction begins from the moment of filing and, currently, continues for a lifetime. While that was always the case, with corporate and hedge fund landlords and their propensity to file at the drop of a hat, this issue has itself become an invisible flood of sorts. So, publish not the name of those threatened with eviction, but rather the name of the landlords. Every jurisdiction in this country has a small group of `enterprises’ that comprise the overwhelming majority of those filing eviction. In Richmond, Virginia, for example, 15 large corporations are responsible for over half of the eviction filings.

There’s no flood looming. The flood is here, everywhere, every day. Every eviction is a flood of Biblical proportions. Every eviction filing is already part of that flood. We must do better than sink or swim, where swimming only occurs at someone else’s expense. The only way to control a flood is to contain it. Housing is a human right. Protect it.


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit 1: William H. Johnson, Folk Scene–Eviction / Smithsonian American Art Museum)

(Image Credit 2: Hilda Katza, The Flood / Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Rent control would be good, controlling corporate and hedge fund landlords would be better

Despite much ballyhoo around Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and other celebrations around the world, the eviction and housing news of the past week has been relentless. In Oklahoma, where “it’s easy to be evicted,” evictions and rent are skyrocketing, thousands are being or recently have been pushed out of their homes into an environment where affordable housing is either unavailable or dangerous to your health. In Quebec, those hoping to flee domestic violence find, again, no available affordable housing. Faced with home-based violence or the violence being unhoused, many are forced to remain in perilous situations. In Florida, residents, often long-standing residents, of mobile home parks are being evicted by new landlords who, upon possession, jack up the rents. In Virginia, mobile home park residents are suffering the same fate. In Charlotte, North Carolina, new landlords are doing the same, taking possession, raising the rents precipitously with the intent of forcing the current residents out into, again, a hostile and even impossible local and regional housing environment. And then there’s the United Kingdom.

According to new government data, between January and March, the United Kingdom saw a record high number of no-fault eviction filings. From end of March last year to end of March this year, the United Kingdom saw a 76% rise in no-fault eviction filings. At least 20% of those receiving evictions ended up being forced out, often onto the streets. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and the approach of winter, the situation is expected to worsen. In June 2019, the United Kingdom government promised to end no-fault evictions. In the intervening three years, they have done nothing, actually less than nothing, given the rise in housing costs. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, announced that tens of thousands of homes across the United Kingdom are unsafe because “they have not been looked after properly”, not by the landlords and not by the State, that has consistently looked the other way. Tens of thousands of homes do not mysteriously, suddenly become unsafe. So much for levelling up.

Across the United States, and beyond, the fact that the rent is too damned high and even worse, that it’s rising faster than ever before is perhaps finally becoming `newsworthy’. Yesterday, NPR reported, “After gutting local newspapers, hedge fund Alden Global is going after mobile home parks.” Today, The Roanoke Times editorial headline says it all, “Wealthy corporate investors prey on vulnerable mobile home park residents”. What is that preys on the vulnerable? A predator. This weekend, the news focused on Alden Global, a hedge fund that has bought a slew of mobile home parks across the country, including Massie’s Mobile Home Park in Christiansburg, Virginia. Alden comes in, does nothing about repairs, raising the rents impossibly, evicts residents, or just comes in and evicts residents, depending on the local laws. But the thing is, Alden is typical of hedge funds and corporate investors. This is what they do. And they are doing this, as never before, across the United States rental housing market. Rent control is good, essential even, but it won’t stop hedge funds. What is also needed is renter controls. There are tests for real estate agents, why not for landlords? How much is too much? Remember the housing market collapse of 2008, engineered by corporate interests in collusion with banks? Remember “too big to fail”? For some, the lesson was if you get big enough, you’re untouchable. It’s not too late to control the corporates from seizing the housing market altogether. Housing is a human right. Protect it.


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit 1: Bill Bragg / The Guardian) (Image Credit 2: Elizabeth Olds / Smithsonian American Art Museum)

“They’re not evicting me. It’s just that, you know, on a fixed income, I can’t do it.”

Across the country this week, eviction filings are skyrocketing, evictions are spiking. In over 500 counties, evictions are now over their historical pre-pandemic averages. Evictions in Oklahoma County are 40% above pre-pandemic levels. Eviction filings and evictions are rising to and often exceeding pre-pandemic levels in Detroit, Michigan; Richmond, Virginia; Akron, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee. From Virginia to Illinois to Californiaand all points between and beyond, mobile home park residents face rapidly rising rents and, again spiking eviction filings and evictions. Much of this is due to a `new breed’ of investors in the rental market, corporate investors and hedge funds, for whom, as one Richmond, Virginia, resident put it, “I’m not looked at as a human being. I’m looked at as a dollar sign”. Along with all the eviction filings and eviction proceedings, there is another multitude of people who, faced with steeply rising rents, move out. They don’t `decide to move’, they are forced to move, but because nothing was filed and no sheriffs were called, they don’t even figure in the accounting. These are the so-called `informal evictions’. They are the signature of low- and fixed-income people in the throes of the free market. According to one report today, “homeless shelters are seeing more senior citizens with no place to live.” It’s winter in America. Nowhere to go.

In Columbia Falls, Montana, Lisa Beaty, 64 years old, and her partner, Kim Hilton, 69 years old, report their landlord just doubled their rent. The two live on disability payments. They can’t find anywhere to go, and so Ms. Beaty will move into her daughter’s one-bedroom apartment and Mr. Hilton will move into his … truck. As Ms. Beaty explained, “They’re not evicting me. It’s just that, you know, on a fixed income, I can’t do it.” “That light at the end of the tunnel seems like it’s going out,” added Mr. Hilton.

In some places, people 60 and older are becoming the largest demographic living in shelters. What happens when elders move into homeless shelters, spaces not designed for seniors? As Lisa Sirois, a staffer at the Poverello Center in Missoula, Montana, explains, “As soon as someone is unable to make it to the restroom on their own, regularly transfer on their own, really operate independently, we do have to ask them to leave.” In Bozeman, Montana, an elder was asked “to find an alternative place to stay”. He was later found outside a department store, frozen to death. It’s winter in America.

With nursing homes closing, rents rising, and assistance – such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – nowhere near adequate to the cost of aging in America, the much-touted return to normal means an attack on the most vulnerable. Today, it’s the seniors, tomorrow … “They’re not evicting me. It’s just that, you know, on a fixed income, I can’t do it.” “That light at the end of the tunnel seems like it’s going out”.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: City Limits)

In Richmond, Virginia, 15 large companies are responsible for half of all evictions

In today’s news, “the number of eviction notices filed in San Francisco has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.” In New Bedford, Massachusetts, longstanding residents’ homes are being bought by developers who raise the rents precipitously, way beyond current tenants’ means, forcing them to move. In one complex, most of the residents received eviction notices. In others, they move before the notices come: “This situation is becoming the norm throughout the city. People are coming in and evicting people who have been living in these houses for 10 years”. And in Virginia, “fifteen large companies are responsible for half of all evictions in the Richmond area.” From coast to coast, this situation of eviction and forced displacement is becoming the norm. Consider Richmond and, beyond it, the Commonwealth of Virginia.

But first, consider the entire country, briefly. According to the Eviction Lab’s latest eviction report, issued on October 8: “In the 6 states and 31 cities we track, landlords have filed for 1,240, 656 evictions during the pandemic. They filed for 7,713 over the last week.” On July 27, the number of filings was 1,053,252. That means, in three months, landlords, disproportionately corporate landlords, filed 187,404 evictions. 15% of all eviction filings in the three years of the pandemic occurred in the last three months, and the number, and rate of eviction, is rising. The numbers for Virginia are equally disturbing.

According to the Richmond-based RVA Eviction Lab’s most recent report, in Richmond, 87% of eviction filings this quarter were filed by corporate landlords. Half were filed by 15 companies. This week, Richmond is set for a record week of evictions, 126 evictions. Pre-pandemic, the weekly number was between 50 and 60. This record breaking week was not a surprise, given a report the week before in which one apartment complex, James River Pointe, bought by a corporation, saw half of the residents receive eviction notices.

A major company, Homes of America, linked to a major hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, has been buying up mobile park homes across the country. This company bought a mobile home park in Montgomery County, in southwest Virginia, and immediately sent residents “notices to quit”, offering them the “opportunity” to pay $700 or vacate within a matter of days. Homes of America,has done the same in North Dakota, Florida, Louisiana, and elsewhere.

In northern Virginia, according to the RVA Eviction Lab report, with the exception of Fairfax County, which saw a dip, all the region experienced a rise in eviction filings and judgements. Alexandria lead the pack: “Eviction filings in Alexandria, Fredericksburg and Prince William increased by 109%, 75%, and 96%, respectively”. Default judgments in Alexandria are approaching pre-pandemic levels, with 26% of all evictions ending in a default judgment, meaning the tenant didn’t show and, by Virginia law, the landlord automatically wins the eviction.

This situation is becoming the norm. People are coming in and evicting people who have been living in these houses and apartments for years. These numbers do not take into account those who have `self-deported’ or been victims of `informal evictions” or “`invisible evictions.’ Essentially, when landlords offer new leases with much higher rents, many tenants are forced to move if they can’t pay.” Others move rather than suffer the Scarlet Letter of eviction filing attached to their name. An eviction filing is as damaging as an eviction, in terms of the ways in which future landlords consider an application. So, what’s going on? While there are many factors, report after report points to the entrance of major corporations and hedge funds into the rental market and the willingness, the eagerness, of corporate landlords to file for eviction. While eviction moratoria and rent control are profoundly important, as long as corporate interests are given a free hand to exert virtually monopolistic control over rental markets, the situation will worsen. That is not inevitable. Stop evictions, stop predatory rent hikes, end corporate domination of housing. This situation cannot be allowed to become the norm.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch / Alexa Welch Edlund)

(Infographic Credit: RVA Eviction Lab)

Ireland and South Africa reject the `natural’ inevitability of eviction

“Yet many of these issues, I found, could not really be thought through, and some of them, I believe, cannot even be focused unless we are conscious of the words as elements of the problems.”         Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

The weather in the United States these days is terrible. Virginia and the Bay Area, in California, are threatened by tsunamis, while Hennepin County, in Minnesota, faces the prospect of monsoon. These are not meteorological events. They are eviction tsunamis and monsoons. While the figures of speech portray the intense destructiveness of the eviction situation, from coast to coast, they also provide a bit of an alibi, in that they naturalize the precipitous rise in eviction across the United States and beyond. Evictions are not natural events, they are created by humans, individually and in corporations. Likewise, skyrocketing rents and rates of eviction are not natural events; they too are created by individual landlords and, often, by corporate landlords. To the same degree that climate change is created by human action and especially `economic development’, so is eviction. Recently, Ireland and the Johannesburg High Court, separately, rejected the `natural’ inevitability of eviction and chose to promote the right to decent housing as a fundamental element of human dignity and the right to dignity.

In September, with winter approaching, Scotland temporarily froze rents and halted evictions. At the same time, in Ireland, with an equally bitter winter approaching, a third of renters reported they spend 50% or more of their income on rent. Rents in Ireland are “doubling, tripling”, according to Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Minister for Justice. In October, the Irish government decided to follow Scotland’s example and halted all evictions between November and March of next year. While landlords have claimed they are being `forced out’ of the market, tenants and their allies welcome the respite. Everyone recognizes that a five-month halt to evictions will not resolve the severe affordable housing shortage in Ireland, at least it will provide a momentary respite and a modest recognition of the humanity and dignity of those most vulnerable.

Meanwhile, in the case of Rycloff-Beleggings (Pty) Ltd v Ntombekhaya Bonkolo and Others, the Johannesburg High Court ruled that a group of working people’s access to work and right to dignity had to be considered when adjudicating an eviction notice. The case involves waste reclaimers who have been living on an `undevbeloped’ stretch of farmland that lies between a residential complex and a business park in the Midrand section of Johannesburg. In 2018, the owners of the land, Rycloff-Beleggings, decided they wanted to `develop’ the land, and so issued eviction notices. The city offered a site with no possibility of developing waste reclamation economies, and so, in May 2019, the residents sued, demanding to either stay put or be placed somewhere where they could continue to work. On October 4, Judge Greg Wright agreed and gave the city until March 2023 to find appropriate site for the community. Anything else “would leave them at risk of not being able to maintain their dignity and care for their children.  It would be unfair and therefore unconstitutional to uphold the other parties’ rights while the reclaimers go hungry. Furthermore, the rights of children are paramount in cases involving children such as the present one.” If people are on the land, it is not `undeveloped’. If people live in a neighborhood, it too is not undeveloped.

At one level, both Ireland and the Johannesburg High Court chose to respect  the “indivisibility of all human rights”. While the Irish protections only last through the winter and the South African decision is only one court, the examples are illustrative. First, evictions can be stopped. Second, every human being and every community of human beings has the right to dignity. Third, eviction is not a natural, inevitable event. We can stop evictions. Finally, many descriptions and analysis of the housing crisis focus on large numbers, but we must also remember that every eviction is a housing crisis, and every housing crisis is an affront and an assault on all human rights. Scotland, Ireland, and the Johannesburg High Court acted in the name and service of human dignity and decency. Who will follow their example?


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Infographic credit: The Irish Times)


With rapidly rising eviction numbers and nowhere to go, Virginia “returns to normal”

When it comes to evictions and the lack of affordable housing, the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, the DC – Maryland – Virginia DMV, offers a somewhat mixed picture. Overall, affordable housing is critically unavailable. As to evictions, while numbers in all three areas are rising, in DC they’re rising slowly, largely thanks to governmental protections and organizing efforts. In Maryland, though eviction numbers are the highest they’ve been since the COVID pandemic began, they’re not yet approaching pre-pandemic levels. Yet. In northern Virginia, however, eviction “filings appear to be catching up … Statewide, monthly eviction filings as of September are at 87.5 percent of the `historical average.’ Monthly eviction filings have also tripled since January.” In August, Fairfax County blew past the so-called historical average by a full 20%, while Arlington County was 14% below and Alexandria was just 4% below their respective historic averages. Last week, the Virginia Poverty Law Center reported a recent 500% increase in calls, so many calls in fact they had to close the hotline temporarily. That’s the normal, once again, and it’s coming to your town soon. So, what’s going on? The common answer is “the end of protections”, which, as far as it goes, is accurate. But that “end”, that “failure”, is public policy, and It’s succeeding, brilliantly, for a few, if catastrophically, for many.

While much of the attention will focus on northern Virginia, the `return to normal’ is statewide. Between January and June, eviction filings across Virginia rose by 88%: “What tenant advocates see as a budding crisis, landlords view as a return to normal.” Here’s normal: five-day eviction notices. Here’s normal: an eviction filing attached to one’s name, much less an actual eviction, means most landlords won’t even consider the application. Here’s normal: rents in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Richmond have risen 43%, 37% and 15%, respectively; and Hampton Roads is one of the 20 most competitive rental markets in the United States this year. In Richmond, filings in September were 82% above Richmond’s historic average.

According to the most recent U.S. Census survey, 34.3% of the United States believes they face likely eviction within the next two months. That’s a bit more than one of every three households. In the Washington – Arlington – Alexandria metro area, 43.6% of households surveyed believe they face likely eviction within the next two months. Since that likely distributed, it’s reasonable to think that the numbers in Arlington and Alexandria are higher. You know what it’s called when 44% of a population is displaced? Mass eviction. And what it’s called when whole communities are wiped out?

A recent article on the current chaotic rental market in England offers four reasons for the mess in England, reasons which might afford some insight into the situation in Virginia and the country. First, a shortage of housing, partly market driven largely policy driven, “enables” landlords to ask for skyhigh rents. Second, “greedy landlords”. In the United States, rental markets have been overtaken by corporate landlords who charge much higher rents and, significantly, file for eviction more quickly, more routinely, more often. Third, lack of protection for renters. Here is where the State comes in … or better, has opted to leave the stage. For a period during the pandemic, the United States had tenant protections, and, just like child tax credits and other pandemic relief programs, those protections worked. Thanks to no fault eviction protections, mandatory eviction diversion programs, right to counsel in eviction cases, evictions dropped. State protections helped turn an existential community wide crisis, in which tenants never had a chance, into a reasonable, regulated negotiation, which, in more cases than not, never had to go to court or involve any sort of threat of permanent loss of home for oneself, one’s loved ones, one’s neighbors. In Oregon this week, people facing 50% rent increases are asking their landlords to reconsider. It’s the only thing they can do, throw themselves on the mercy of the landlord. This is the old new normal for what is called affordable housing. From Virginia to Oregon and beyond, we cannot return to normal.


(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Tyrone Turner /  DCist / WAMU)