New Research Shows that Women are Disproportionately Vulnerable to Eviction

The New York Times reports:

New research is showing that eviction is a particular burden on low-income black women, often single mothers, who have an easier time renting apartments than their male counterparts, but are vulnerable to losing them because their wages or public benefits have not kept up with the cost of housing.

This will come as no surprise to those that have been following the ways in which this economic down turn has exacerbated many of the financial threats facing so many women and people of color, in particular. Just as corrupt mortgage companies have targeted low-income women, well-documented in places like Baltimore, women are now losing their rented housing at higher rates than men.
This new study focuses on Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where one of every 25 renter-occupied households in the city is evicted each year. In black neighborhoods, the rate is one in 14. Women from largely black neighborhoods in Milwaukee constitute 13 percent of the city’s population, but 40 percent of those evicted.
But this isn’t just a problem of the Midwest or of former industry towns like Milwaukee, straining for rejuvenation in tough times. According to the NYT: “Housing lawyers in Los Angeles and New York described a similar predominance of minority women, including Hispanic women, in eviction cases.” According to Chester Hartman, an urban planner with the Poverty and Race Research Action Council in Washington, there have probably been millions of evictions nationwide in the last year, but unlike with foreclosures, data isn’t easy to come by.
Why are women disproportionately targeted? The study lists a combination of factors, but a few of them are outrageous: “women more readily complain to city agencies about repairs, potentially angering landlords who then find excuses to evict them. And police reports of domestic violence can backfire on women, leading some landlords to seek evictions out of fear that they will be fined for tolerating disturbances.”
See also:
Resisting Foreclosures Together
Domestic violence survivor evicted for reporting abuser
Thanks to John for the heads up.

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    Posted February 25, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    There’s good information and data in that Times article. Also, way too much victim blaming and othering – way too much of that. Plus, the hint that they see marriage as the solution to the poverty of African American women, as opposed to greater job opportunities, or any other kind of idea that would put money directly in Black women’s pockets! Also, the usual demonization of Black men as irresponsible, criminal, drug users that is all too common in articles like this.

  2. s mandisa
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Courtney: thank you for posting this. I wonder if a better title could have been ” women of color are disproportionately vulnerable….” b/c this study shows, and I already knew, that we are most affected by this. just a suggestion, not a critique.
    i also appreciated your call-out of the systemic blame that often happens when you are not in the owning class. implicit in these “Reasons” for eviction, which to me are synonymous to justifications for violence, is a very common state policy: blame the victim so as to dodge accountability. we only have to look at the Gulf Coast after Katrina and Haiti now to see how effective this can be.
    as if I needed more justification for centering the needs and experiences for low-income women of color in my organizing and advocacy work, here it is….

  3. Phenicks
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree. Like I was saying in the Georgia abortion thread; racism plays a huge role. The way society treated and viewed BLACK women as ignorant, oversexualized anti-mothers or human breeders left far too many in a vicious cycle of poverty and underemployment. Not only do we have to fight misogny we have racism coming from the other end. The fact that too many black women are just not as human as white women means that eviction or other tragedies just seem less tragic and important when the victim of it is a black woman.
    Oh and you were dead on about the view of black men, its like lost in the talk of male priveldge is the fact that male or female he is STILL black and is oppressed by way of race.

  4. cattrack2
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I know this from both sides. Two of my sisters barely get by. One does with her disability check, but she’s had as many as 3 kids and 2 grandkids living in her small 2 BR apartment. Another sister was evicted on a cold day a few years back & lost what little furniture she had managed to accumulate. Her and her 2 adult kids & 4 grandkids now share a tiny, tiny 2 BR apartment with her dog of a boyfriend.
    My father on the other hand recently had to evict a man & his family from a house we rent out because the man was 6 months behind on his rent ($700 per month for a 4BR, 2500 s.f. house). Unfortunately he & his wife had 3 kids. There were, in fact, some minor repairs that needed to be made and the guy tried to justify withholding his rent on that basis. Since he wasn’t even aware of what repairs needed to be made until he was already 4 months behind, this didn’t really fly with the judge (not that the guy bothered to show up for either of his eviction hearings). My father isn’t the only landlord I know who rents in blighted communities. It can be a tough business, esp if you aren’t a slumlord.
    But you know what? As much as my sisters could benefit from renting that house, my father would never do so. Their credit isn’t good.

  5. cattrack2
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know, I think they’re calling it pretty straight myself. No one should stay in a bad or abusive marriage, still the data has been clear for decades: One of the single greatest predictors of poverty is marriage status. A single breadwinner family hasn’t been economically viable since the ’60s. The landlord said it best, a single mother getting by on a $700 welfare check can’t afford $400 rent.
    I’m not saying that better job opportunities aren’t needed, but it can be hard for a 25yo single mother to do the things necessary for job opps. A reliable car to commute to that better paying job is expensive. Education & re-training is expensive & difficult. Marriage or partnership is still one of the easiest things people can do to pool resources & thereby reduce the cost of living. Of course they can come at a different price. The streets are hard. Everyday comes at a price.

  6. s mandisa
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    i think the point of the article that is hard, cattrack2, is the way it was written. it seemed to be blaming them, like its their fault they are not married, thus its their fault they are in poverty, which then is a way to dodge collective and institutional accountability. “its your own fault, so why should i feel sorry for you or help you.” thats the mentality that is problematic.
    furthermore, its a tool of heteropatriarchy which disctates everyone should get married, when in reality everyone can not married, wants to get married, or is worthy (in a system where white, hetero feminity is still very much the norm) of marriage. so it sets women of color and low income women up to fail, then blames us when we do.
    you are right. a single mother faces many hardships, no doubt but as your own family shows, its a farce to think they will go away just because she is married. thank you for sharing such powerful examples.

    Posted February 25, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but it seems very sexist to pose marriage as the “solution” to Black women’s poverty.
    Basically, the problem is, first and foremost race and sex discrimination lock these women out of good jobs – add to that,there are also the basically secondary factors like lack of training and lack of access to a reliable car and, above all, the fact that the economy doesn’t have enough jobs for all the unemployed people who need them.
    The solutions to those problems are dramatic but basically simple – affirmative action with quotas (so bosses will have to give Black women their fair share of the jobs), training programs, programs that subsidize car purchase by poor women and, above all job creation programs.
    All of those ideas are predicated on the concept of solving Black women’s poverty by putting money in the pockets of Black women
    Marriage “solves” Black women’s poverty by making them dependent on Black men rather than enabling Black women to get their own money
    Not to mention the fact that – at it’s core – marriage is a sexist and patriarchal institution and the fact that marriage to men as a “solution” to the poverty of Black women excludes Black lesbians and add to that the radical idea that a woman should marry for love not out of financial desperation!
    So, no, marriage is NOT a way out of poverty for Black women the way out of poverty for Black women is to put more money directly in Black women’s pockets!
    Yeah, I know the idea of helping poor women by putting money directly in their pockets (rather than making them find a exchange sex and domestic chores for access to a man’s money) is pretty radical, but I happen to think it’s a good idea.

  8. cattrack2
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    I think real life is complicated mandisa. I know some people who circumstance got the better of: they were beaten down by economic downturns, discrimination, mishap & misfortune. I know other people who made poor personal choices however. I have a niece who’s never been married with 4 kids by 3 different men she can’t care for. Two of the fathers are unemployable, and the other once put a gun in her mouth. I’ve rescued family members from abusive situations, paid for abortions, etc, and so I’m dumbfounded when people I know make predictably bad decisions: eg, dating convicted bank robbers or child molesters; refusing to practice safe sex & thereby having more kids than you can care for?
    I became a feminist because I felt a powerful sense of feminism–more than social programs, combating heteropatriarchy, etc–was critical to my nieces avoiding self made pitfalls (they could spend a lifetime just avoiding the ones society creates for them). For me feminism is equal parts individual responsibility and social responsibility….sorry for the essay this is just too close to home.

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