Low-income women evicted more often than men partly because of gender dynamics with landlords

A recent analysis of evictions in Milwaukee shows the gender of a landlord and a tenant influences who is more likely to be evicted:

It’s an all-too-common story. Low-income women are evicted at much higher rates than men. The reasons are varied, including lower wages and children, but one rarely discussed reason is the gender dynamics between largely male landlords and female tenants…

But the interactions between predominantly male landlords and female tenants is also a culprit, and it often turns on gender dynamics. Men who fall behind on rent, for example, often went directly to the landlord. When Jerry was served an eviction notice, he promptly balled up and threw it in the face of his landlord. The two commenced yelling at each other until Jerry stomped back to his trailer.

Meanwhile, Larraine, who had also been served notice, recoiled from conflict. “I couldn’t deal with it. I was terrified by it, just terrified,” she told the researcher. After Jerry calmed down, he returned and offered to work off his rent by cleaning up the trailer park and doing some maintenance work, something men often offer to do, I found. The landlord accepted his offer. The outcome for Larraine was different. After avoiding her landlord, she would eventually come up with the rent, borrowing from her brother. But by that time, her landlord had had enough. He felt that Lorraine had taken advantage of him. In keeping with women’s generally non-confrontational approach, Larraine, like many other women renters facing eviction, engaged in “ducking and dodging” landlords often put it.

This dynamic has long-term implications. An eviction record can make it extremely difficult for them to find housing again. Evictions can ban a person from affordable housing programs. And many landlords will not rent to someone who’s been evicted. As they like to say, “I’ll rent to you as long as you don’t have an eviction or a conviction.” These twinned processes—eviction and conviction—work together to propagate economic disadvantage in the inner city.

This sounds like a confluence of race, class, gender. Being non-white and having a lower income leads to fewer housing opportunities and then gender compounds the particulars of interacting with male landlords. The difficulty in finding decent affordable housing then affects what neighborhoods people can live in, influencing social networks, collective efficacy, exposure to violence and crime, differences in educational systems, and access to economic opportunities.

Desmond’s brief report suggests the best solution is to help avoid evictions:

The most important policy solution, however, would be to ensure that low-income families do not end up in eviction court in the first place. Stopgap measures that provide emergency funds for families in a jam – those who have lost a job, experienced a family death, or suffered a medical emergency – could help thousands stay in their homes…

More fundamentally, making housing more affordable could prevent many evictions.

A tough issue to address in a country that tends to accept residential segregation as well as the prevalence of market forces in the housing industry.

“Why Low-Income Housing Applicants Have to Waste Hours of Time Waiting in Gigantic Lines”

The 312 looks at why applicants for social services have to wait in long lines:

Can you imagine people waiting in a line that stretched around the block for any other government service? The DMV? The City Clerk? The Secretary of State?

But inconvenience is pretty standard when it comes to services for the poor, says Dan Lesser, of the Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

“There’s a world of different between how the average person is treated at the DMV and how someone whose applying for assistance is treated at the local public aid office,” said Lesser.

“We heard that a lot when the economy went bad and a lot of people applied for food stamps for the first time,” he said. “They were definitely not used to get the kind of treatment that they got when they went to those local offices.”

It makes you wonder: Is there simply a belief that poor people have nowhere better to be? Why do the providers of essential services treat them as if their time is worthless?

Most of the problem lies with the abysmal funding levels for human services, says Lesser. But the majority of people who are on some kind of public assistance are working, he says, and the layers of red tape hurts them financially.

It sounds like adding insult to injury. This reminds me of a faculty member I know who has students go through the process of applying for public aid without giving them any information. The students tend to report that the process is a lot harder than you might think.

But, there could be another issue at work as well. Take the example in this blog post about a line for applying for low-income housing. There is an issue long before getting into line: the Chicago area, not just the city, is lacking in affordable housing. I’ve seen numbers suggesting the region is at least 50,000 affordable units short. Hence, the wait lists for public or affordable housing are really long. Interest in joining a waiting list or getting a shot a new opportunity is high.

Stereotypes of apartment renters

Americans who are homeowners, whether they own single-family homes, condos, and townhomes, are typically regarded as respectable, hard-working, and upstanding citizens who have sought after the American Dream. But there are different opinions regarding those who rent apartments. Here is an example from Manteca, California:

You rarely see landlords for single family homes that stringent and quite frankly, not all homeowners could pass such muster.

That is why it is a tad absurd that a number of homeowners when confronted with news that someone is proposing a $30 million apartment complex in their neighborhood believe it will be allowed to be occupied by rowdy, inconsiderate slobs, who will park cars all over the adjoining neighborhood and pursue a lifestyle that will drive home prices down.

If you want to see such behavior, there are plenty examples in Manteca neighborhoods – including those built since 2000.

No one is debating that there aren’t examples of somewhat trashy older apartment complexes that let everything go to hell. In Manteca, though, they are fairly rare due to the aggressive stance the city has taken. And in fairness to many owners of smaller and older apartment buildings in town where rents definitely are more affordable they are doing a good job of keeping their complexes in shape and devoid of problem tenants.

To go after single family homes whose tenants create such problems is much more difficult as often a landlord will have only one or two homes and live out of the area.

It is also true that the much more stringent construction and development standards of today make it next to impossible for rents for new complexes to be relatively low. That is why Paseo Apartments starts out at $975 a month for a one bedroom and one bathroom apartment.

In my research on suburban development, I found a number of examples where suburbanites were opposed to apartments because of the type of people who live in apartments. One complaint was about the transient nature of apartment living. The assumption was that single-family homeowners are more rooted in a community while apartment dwellers move more frequently and care less about individual municipalities. Having too many apartments would mean that a greater proportion of residents wouldn’t really care about the community. This was commonly tied to the disruption of a community’s single-family home character

But a second complaint included thoughts about low-income residents and seemed tied at times to race and ethnicity. Since these suburbs were heavily white, apartments were seen as places where less wealthy and non-white residents could live. Such residents might engage in more uncouth behavior, sullying the reputation of idyllic, white suburbs. Apartment complexes are viewed as crime magnets because lower-income, non-white residents are assumed to be more prone to crime.

It sounds like both issues might be taking place in Manteca: even nicer apartment complexes with high rents and amenities are not granted the moral equivalency of a nice single-family home neighborhood. Additionally, the author tries to point out that there is anti-social behavior in single-family homes as well as apartment complexes but this isn’t often recognized.

With all of the talk about more multi-family housing construction, these issues will need to be overcome in many communities.

(Side note: a third complaint about apartments I found is the argument that apartments don’t generate enough tax revenue for the services that will be required. This commonly is tied to school funding as apartments, depending on their price and size, might attract more families who will overburden the schools. So senior apartments might be more likely to be approved than three or four bedroom apartments that will likely draw families to the community.)

The last occupied high-rise at Cabrini-Green

Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune discusses the last occupied high-rise still standing at Cabrini-Green in Chicago: the 1230 N. Burling building.

Soon, there will be no more buildings like this that had come to symbolize poverty after being built in the 1950s and 1960s. The poor and lower-class have been moved out, some to new mixed-income neighborhoods while others have slipped through the cracks of the system. Though these buildings may disappear, the problems once present in them have not.