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No place like home: America’s eviction epidemic

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The Guardian - No place like home: America’s eviction epidemic

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Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare enough to draw crowds. Eviction riots erupted during the Depression, even though the number of poor families who faced eviction each year was a fraction of what it is today. A New York Times account of community resistance to the eviction of three Bronx families in February 1932 observed: “Probably because of the cold, the crowd numbered only 1,000.” Sometimes neighbours confronted the marshals directly, sitting on the evicted family’s furniture to prevent its removal or moving the family back in despite the judge’s orders. The marshals themselves were ambivalent about carrying out evictions. It wasn’t why they carried a badge and a gun.

These days, there are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders. There are moving companies specialising in evictions, their crews working all day, every weekday. There are hundreds of data-mining companies that sell landlords tenant-screening reports listing past evictions and court filings. These days, housing courts swell, forcing commissioners to settle cases in hallways or makeshift offices crammed with old desks and broken file cabinets – and most tenants don’t even show up. Low-income families have grown used to the rumble of moving trucks, the early morning knocks at the door, the belongings lining the kerb.

In America, families have watched their incomes stagnate, or even fall, while their housing costs have soared. Median rent has increased by more than 70% since 1995. Meanwhile, only one in four families who qualify for housing assistance receive it, and in the nation’s biggest cities the waiting list for public housing is not counted in years but decades. The typical poor American family does not live in public housing but receives no government assistance whatsoever. The result? Today, the majority of poor renting families in America spend more than half of their income on housing, and at least one in four dedicates more than 70% to paying the rent and keeping the lights on.

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It is estimated that millions of Americans are evicted every year because they can’t make rent. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city of fewer than 105,000 renter households, landlords evict roughly 16,000 adults and children each year. That’s 16 families evicted through the court system daily. New York City sees 60 marshal evictions a day. The most recent version of the American Housing Survey asked people: “Do you think you’ll be evicted soon?” Renters in more than 2.8m homes said yes.

A landlord can evict tenants through a formal, court process. But there are other ways, cheaper and quicker ways, to remove a family. Some landlords pay tenants a couple of hundred dollars to leave by the end of the week. Some take off the front door. Nearly half of all forced moves experienced by renting families in Milwaukee are “informal evictions” that take place in the shadow of the law. If you count all forms of involuntary displacement – formal and informal evictions, landlord foreclosures, building condemnations – you discover that between 2009 and 2011 more than one in eight Milwaukee renters experienced a forced move. That is a shockingly high amount of residential insecurity.

The face of America’s eviction epidemic belongs to mothers with children. Until recently, the housing court in New York City’s South Bronx had a daycare facility inside it because there were so many children coming through its doors.

Eviction’s fallout is severe. Losing a home sends families to shelters, abandoned houses, and the street. It invites depression and illness, compels families to move into degrading housing in dangerous neighbourhoods, uproots communities, and harms children. Eviction is not merely a condition of poverty; it is a cause of it too.

I must admit it brought tears to my eyes.

OTOH,

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Hispanic and African American neighbourhoods had been targeted by the sub-prime lending industry: renters were lured into buying bad mortgages, and homeowners were encouraged to refinance under riskier terms. Then it all came crashing down. Between 2007 and 2010, the average white family experienced an 11% reduction in wealth, but the average black family lost 31% of its wealth. The average Hispanic family lost 44.7%.

Who should get the blame ?

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7 hours ago, Fairyland said:

Who should get the blame ?

Central banks, politicians? 

Actors in a system are just doing what the system encourages them, as individuals, to do.  Those who are responsible for the system as a whole, however...

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7 hours ago, EUBanana said:

 

Central banks, politicians? 

Actors in a system are just doing what the system encourages them, as individuals, to do.  Those who are responsible for the system as a whole, however...

100% truth.  Public gallows and guillotine await, no need to write the names, walk this way central banker...

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 renters were lured into buying bad mortgages, and homeowners were encouraged to refinance under riskier terms. Then it all came crashing down.

What I am not able to understand:

1. Did renters have a choice?

2. Were they aware that they may loose home if they can't keep up with payments?

3. If yes, then should they share some blame? Borrowing whatever max the lender is ready to lend is probably the biggest cause of insane HPI.

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I thought minorities lost badly because a mixture of PC (mustn't discriminate against minorities) and greed (we can lend more to minorities) led to them being particularly targeted by banks.

 

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1 hour ago, Fairyland said:

 

What I am not able to understand:

1. Did renters have a choice?

2. Were they aware that they may loose home if they can't keep up with payments?

3. If yes, then should they share some blame? Borrowing whatever max the lender is ready to lend is probably the biggest cause of insane HPI.

However if the sales people (and they are sales people) selling them the loan were in fact responsible financial grown ups like in the old days then this would not be happening. The difference between civilisation and anarchy or a plantation master/slave set up is good government and good institutions with the banks being almost quasi institutions that we should be able to trust. They are not and used every trick in the book to rope these people in with full knowledge that they would fail at some point in the future, however the short term bonus culture took over with zero regard for the future.  .

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