Protecting Low-Income Tenants from Evictions and Expanding Affordable Housing
At the Public Policy Forum, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Evicted author Dr. Matthew Desmond, and Professor Paula Franzese, the Peter W. Rodino Professor of Law at Seton Hall University were joined by other policy experts to discuss the crisis of eviction.
The Public Policy Forum shed light on the issue of eviction and the fact that evictions are caused by irresponsibility and poor decision making on the part of the tenant.
“That narrative has been challenged most recently by Matthew Desmond, a Princeton professor in Sociology who wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City that getting evicted is more about inevitability rather than irresponsibility and that eviction strongly correlates with poverty and economically devastated neighborhoods.”
Read more about Matthew Desmond’s research at this link Unaffordable America: Poverty, Affordable Housing and Eviction.
Desmond researched his book in Milwaukee but his findings translate to the eviction crisis playing out in cities across the country. “Desmond, who began teaching at Princeton University this past year, has been credited for spurring researchers and lawmakers to take a closer look at the issue of eviction. He’s characterized the issue of access to housing as the core to many other problems in America.”
In New Jersey, State Senators Ron Rice (D) and Jennifer Beck (R) co-sponsored the Safe Sanitary Subsidized Rental Housing Bill of Rights that was introduced in June earlier this year. The proposed legislation would make landlords responsible for maintaining health and safety compliant buildings.
“Several other bills have been introduced in New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly. Policy advisors suggested housing and eviction will be one of the first issues tackled by the state in the first session next year.”
New Jersey had 161,329 evictions in 2016 which translates to about 14 percent of all renters in the state. “Nationwide, evictions have risen as families pay a higher percentage of their income to rent each month.”
“Last year, (Professor) Franzese chronicled the story of Esperanza Menendez-Jackson, a mother in Newark who lived in derelict conditions similar to the scenarios described in Evicted and detailed how one eviction can lead down a rabbit hole of misfortune.
Menendez-Jackson’s apartment was chronically infested with bed bugs. Her children went through a daily routine of taking off, bagging and changing clothes in their hallway each time they exited their apartment.”
When Menendez-Jackson exercised her legal right to withhold her rent, her landlord evicted her. She and her family would have benefitted from free legal assistance to low-income households facing eviction
Free legal assistance combined with the expansion of the Federal Housing Choice Voucher program would ensure that low-income tenants not only receive rental assistance but also the assistance that they need to ensure that their rental housing is safe and healthy. Read more about the case for free legal assistance at this link.
Follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #EvictionNJForum