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Who Receives the Most Unjust Eviction Filings?

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

In the spring of 2019, PDI researchers Emma Boczek and Teddy Knox partnered up to research how race plays into eviction per filing (EPF) rates in Illinois. EPF rates measure the proportion of eviction filings that actually result in evictions. Tenants with low EPF rates may successfully avoid eviction because the filing is inappropriate, but unsuccessful filings are still recorded, so their future housing search will be unjustly impacted by these filings.

To investigate whether unjust filings disproportionately affect certain demographics, our researchers analyzed EPF rates across census block groups. Their findings suggest that the racial makeup of a community impacts landlord and tenant interactions as non-white populations tend to show lower EPF rates. In particular, African-American tenants had the lowest EPF rate, indicating that they were least likely to be evicted after a filing and most unjustly impacted.

What does this suggest?

As our researchers note, lower EPF rates mean “a greater number of baseless – but still harmful – filings.” African-American tenants not only have the lowest EPF rate but also the highest eviction rate overall, suggesting that African-Americans are disproportionately affected by eviction filings irrespective of the outcomes. This disparity suggests that race is a significant factor in landlord-tenant interactions and that low EPF rates represent another form of racial inequity: African-Americans are most likely to receive unjustified filings that reduce their housing opportunities, exacerbating existing racial inequities.

“Though this study does not investigate the reasons for racially disparate EPF rates, the data may reflect a discriminatory pattern in which landlords are more willing to turn to legally punitive measures in areas with more non-white (and particularly, African American) tenants.”

Policy Implications

Housing policies have disproportionately affected African-American populations for years, and the fight against housing insecurity takes place outside of government, too. Grassroots community organizations like the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition have taken action against organizations like the Obama Foundation. The CBA Coalition has advocated for ordinances to implement housing protections and mitigate displacement right in UChicago’s backyard. Despite the 2020 passage of the CBA Ordinance, it remains a contentious issue today. It is essential for governments to engage with local stakeholders and step in when negotiations between groups, such as the Woodlawn community and the Obama Foundation, cannot reach a compromise.

For more on housing policy...

  • Matthew Desmond is a leading sociologist in the field of housing eviction issues. Check out his Eviction Lab for more data on evictions.

  • Check out the ordinances that the CBA Coalition has advocated for from 2016 to 2019. While you’re there, take a look at the research conducted by the Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement on how the location of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago impacts affordable housing.

  • A continuation of this study is currently open to PDI researchers with experience programming in R. If interested, take a look at the database and let the PDI Executive Board know!

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