We have an eviction crisis, which is really just one part of a broader housing affordability crisis. Incomes are too low for rents. Rents are too high for incomes. The barriers to home-buying are growing, especially for younger Americans. The wealth gap between black and white Americans is spreading, driven largely by inequalities in housing. The shockwaves from the foreclosure crisis continue. And in some cities, gentrification drives up costs and drives away low-income families.
Luckily enough, there are solutions — quite a few of them, in fact. In this fourth and final episode of The Scarlet E: Unmasking America’s Eviction Crisis, we evaluate the proposals, which range from subtle to significant.
First, a look back on a solution that worked in some places and was allowed to fail in many others. We visit Atlanta, home to the nation’s first public housing projects. We learn how the city has since destroyed or converted all of its public housing. And with the help of Lawrence Vale, author of Purging the Poorest: Public Housing and the Design Politics of Twice-Cleared Communities, we look at one public housing project, in Boston, that continues to thrive.
And then we look at solutions, both proposed and in-play. Again in Atlanta, we meet landlord Marjy Stagmeier, whose unique model improves nearby schools’ performance — and still turns a profit. We speak with sociologist Matt Desmond about the need to fully fund our Section 8 housing voucher program, and to encourage, or compel, landlords to accept voucher-holders. And we touch on the housing proposals from several Democratic candidates for president. Matt wonders whether our federal housing policies — for instance, the mortgage interest deduction — are subsidizing those most in need. We also ask New York City Councilmember Mark Levine and South Carolina legislator Marvin Pendarvis about possible reforms in our housing courts. We hear from Marty Wegbreit, director of litigation for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, about how Richmond turned its shame over its high eviction rates into policy. And we consider ways that some cities might increase their affordable housing supply by doing away with restrictive, exclusionary zoning policies.
Music by Mark Henry Phillips.
To hear other episodes of The Scarlet E and to learn about the eviction stats in your own state, visit onthemedia.org/eviction.
Support for “The Scarlet E” is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Melville Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and “Chasing the Dream,” a WNET initiative reporting on poverty and opportunity in America.
Support for On the Media is provided by the Ford Foundation and the listeners of WNYC Radio.