Rental Housing Displacements Soar in Urban Areas: WaPo article raises questions

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an article "The Profit in Decay" tent/article/2008/03/08/AR2008030802735. html

about how many landlords in Washinton DC are getting around laws restricting condominium conversions and rent increases by refusing to maintain buildings, and using intimidation tactics to drive tenants out, leaving many buildings first partially occupied, and eventually vacant.

When they finally succeed in driving their tenants away, emptying the buildings of tenants, they can convert the buildings to condominiums, often making huge profits.

Obviously, this makes many people homeless and further reduces the rapidly declining amount of affordable housing in cities.

The law says that if they want to convert a building to condos, they must pay relocation assistance, but despite these restrictions on condo conversions and rent stabilization laws - if they succeed in driving tenants out, they do not need to pay relocation assistance to anyone. City governments are overloaded with other problems and rarely stand in the way.

Many tenants tough it out for months or years, often without heat or hot water, because there is often nowhere else they can even remotely afford in the area.

This problem is not unique to Washington DC, its happening everywhere and middle and low income urban dwellers are being targeted for these removals. Neighborhoods are rapidy changing, as their community members are forced to leave, and cities are losing their diverse character.

Often the people who move in to these buildings have no idea that the previous tenants were in essence, 'economically cleansed' in this way.

Studies have shown that many displaced poor people have nowhere to go. Many older or disabled people, many who had been living on fixed incomes end up in homeless shelters or die.

Often, its not clear what happens to them, people often drop off the map of housing policy researchers.

Many urban apartment dwellers do not own cars, so many housing options that might be available to others in outlying areas do not work for them. Many urban dwellers don't even have drivers licenses, a burden to simply moving to suburban areas that are often many miles away, in order to keep jobs in the city.

As gas prices rise, the cost of urban housing, close to jobs, is going up rapidly. The numbers of people who are displaced also  seems to be increasing.

It seems to me that the specifics of how and if they plan to handle this new aspect of the affordable housing crisis is a very important question that we need to have the Presidential candidates answer.

Because our ignoring these displacements is having the unintentional consequence of changing the makeup of cities in the same way that natural disasters do, although not as rapidly.

Democratic districts are the most effected.

These displacements effect not just the poor. Most of the people who are being displaced are middle income.

Often their jobs depend on their being able to live in a city, near their job.

If they lose their homes, they often cannot keep jobs that they may have worked for many years in, losing pensions. Commutes, often on public transportation can end up being very long and there is a limit to how far someone can travel each day on public transportation because the sudden change - a formerly reliable worker suddenly may have many inevitable missed connections.

This can result in dismissal and sudden poverty. Also, children who were previously well tended by parents will often find themselves alone for long hours as a parent commutes long distances.

These dislacements are effecting hundreds of thousands of Americans all around the nation.

What will the candidates do to stop the destruction of affordable housing for urban dwellers and evade laws restricting condominium conversions and predatory rent increases?

What will they do to stop slumlords from reducing or eliminating essential services like heating and hot water? To stop harassment of law abiding tenants to get them to move?

Tags: affordability, condominium, Economy, housing (all tags)



Housing Displacements

I saw this problem up close when I was living in San Francisco in the late 90's. Luckily the city does have strong tenant's rights laws and rent control. But with that said, there were still major landlord/eviction abuses and the gentrification of the SOMA district and many people were being displaced.

by grlpatriot 2008-03-10 04:50PM | 0 recs
Those laws can only work if they are enforced

And they aren't being enforced. People who get displaced are not being helped by them.

They have loopholes and they are being taken advantage of. Poor people can't get legal help. They can't deal with harassment, their lives are too fragile. They need to be able to go to work. A landlords efforts to disrupt their lives are always successful.

If that doesn't work, they resort to uglier methods.  Even things like arson.

The financial incentive is huge.

I guess what I am meaning to say is that being poor is increasingly to be so powerless that everything you have is 'free for the taking' by the powerful, and in this environment nobody stops them.


by architek 2008-03-11 08:10AM | 0 recs
Housing Displacements

It is hard to imagine the feeling of people who is losing their home.
where would they go?  would they be able to afford to pay rent?  could they keep their job?  It's just an unthinkable circumstance.

The government suppose to manage the country, make it fair to everyone.  This is wrong.  So wrong.  How did our government let the country end up in this situation?

by JoeySky18 2008-03-10 04:56PM | 0 recs
In my family's own case it was horrible

Its a long story and its not one I feel comfortable telling right now.

In the process of being forced out we went through a real hell while we were trying to get our landlord to deal with the problems, and during that time I became really sick, then lost my job, and my wife and I finally had to move thousands of miles away to a place where we really knew very few people. We were luckier than most, we DID have somewhere to go. Our ex-landlord is a big one and this is their way of doing business it appears.

I think the number of displaced people is huge, but nobody really knows because we don't advertise the facts. I mean, in this economy, everyone tries to look as healthy as they possibly can. In a jungle, sick animals are the first to get picked off.

By the way, we lived in one of those cities that supposedly has very good laws to protect tenants, but they didn't do enough to protect us.

The disease I and thousands of other people have because of this is really difficult to get treatment for. Only a very few doctors seem to understand it. This whole country is in denial about it, basically. The building's condition there made me sick. Now I get sick at the drop of a hat from things like chemical fumes. My brain isn't getting enough oxygen, it has spasms and I have good days and bad days and I'm often very very tired.

Maybe I will write about that sometime. Its a very important issue. But I can't right now, I would get too worked up.

by architek 2008-03-12 08:57AM | 0 recs


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