Why We Won’t Stop

Eviction is an insidious problem that has long stayed hidden.

Without clear consistent data collection and someone searching for patterns and trends it will remain hidden.

But that changed with the book Evicted. Matthew Desmond took a deep ethnographic look at the causes and impacts of eviction. What he found was stunning. Stunning that there is no clear infrastructure  for monitoring and evaluating causes of and solutions to eviction and the interventions that can disrupt this legal process for the better. Stunning in how deep and far the negative impacts of eviction are felt.

We do know the Pennsylvania Courts track the number of landlord tenant cases heard each year but  only as evidence that courts are staying busy and tax dollars are spent responsibly, never to say we are seeing a problem or crisis that requires a community response.

That is why we at the Housing Alliance are taking a look at that same data through a different lens, so that we can better understand the scope and scale of the eviction crisis and where we can target our limited resources to generate the greatest impact. And because we know good data is foundational to creating good policy and effective programs.

No one is better off when eviction takes place.

  • Tenants are displaced often having to abandoned what they own to take only what they can carry or fit in a car.
  • Landlords who have already lost needed rental income are likely to have additional expenses beyond the normal turnover costs, including but not limited to courts fees and storing any belongings for a set period after an eviction as stated by law.
  • Courts are being overburdened especially in low-income communities and communities of color and seeing many of the same landlords and the same tenants’ cycle through time and again.

The harm of evictions ripples through communities and through the generations. Employers of essential workers such as home health aides, day care workers, grocery workers and more that are one economic shock away from crisis, are unable to maintain their workforce. Schools are seeing dramatic turnover impacting the academic achievement of housing insecure students. Eviction is a driver of inequality, disproportionately trapping black and brown families in a cycle of housing poverty and instability. 

We need solutions that stabilize tenants and get landlords their due rental income. And we have them.  In Chester there is the Eviction Case Resolution Program and in Montgomery County there is the EPIC (Eviction Prevention Intervention Coalition). In Reading, Lehigh, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia there are lawyer for a day programs. In Dauphin, Monroe, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Allegheny, and Philadelphia there are landlord tenant mediation programs. These solutions are working. However, with pandemic resources drying up, we are also seeing eviction prevention efforts recede in other communities.

People who are being displaced through eviction have little to no options for finding a new place to call home. Our hope is with the recent releases of resources on why evictions prevention still matters and how we can intervene, we are giving tools to communities to refocus and re-energize local efforts on preventing eviction.

Our next step is to release our latest analysis of eviction filings, so you all can see the trends in your communities as well as across the state. But we are not going to stop there. Starting in 2024, we are going to be releasing the latest research and resources into eviction prevention monthly and updating and sharing Pennsylvania Court eviction data.