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Why Virginia Renters Face Higher Rates of Eviction

When it comes to eviction, Virginia is a busy place.   That’s the finding of scholars at Princeton who reviewed court records and found that of the nation’s ten big cities with the highest eviction rates, five are here, and of medium-sized cities where eviction is most common, three of the top five were in Virginia. 

You might think poverty would be the number one predictor of places where people are most likely to be evicted, but Ben Teresa says that’s not the case.  A faculty members at Virginia Commonwealth University, he and colleague Kathryn Howell founded a think tank to study the problem and concluded living in a neighborhood with many African-American residents was the number one predictor for eviction.

“As that share increases, the eviction rate increases," Teresa says. "Conversely, as the share of white people in a neighborhood increases, the eviction rate decreases.” 

That could explain why Buchanan County, where 96% of the population is white, has an eviction rate of less than one percent – even though about 25% of residents have incomes that put them below the poverty line.  Not so for cities with large minority populations.

VCU Professor Benjamin Teresa and his colleague Kathryn Howell hope to find out why.

“In Richmond, for example, we have about an 11% eviction rate, and so that means that for every hundred renters, 11 are evicted annually," Teresa explains.

Of course, income is a factor.  Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and the statewide eviction rate is 5.1% -- more than twice the national average.  In Maryland, where minimum pay is $10.10 an hour, the eviction rate is 3.6 percent.

Once evicted, Teresa adds, few tenants can find permanent housing and many end up homeless. 

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
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