City Hall in Pasadena, California. Voters in this city recently approved amendments to their city’s charter to include some eviction protections for tenants.
Homelessness happens for a number of reasons. Eviction is one. This post is about three different ways that people in the United States have been working to help people fight evictions at the local, state and national level.
A local example comes from Pasadena California. In the 2022 mid-term elections, a majority of voters approved changes to the City’s governing charter to embed rules for the relationship between landlords and tenants. Going forward, the new rules establish that rents can only be increased once per year and the amount of the increase is also regulated. As a campaign organizer explains, the decision to amend the governing charter, which is the City’s top governing document, came about after 20 years of asking local city leaders to approve greater protections for tenants, with no results. The story of getting to a successful vote and details about the eviction protections is published in Shelterforce: How We Won Rent Control in Pasadena, California
A state level example comes from Colorado, where a majority of voters directed their state government to set funds aside annually to develop affordable rental housing. The amount of money is substantial (US$300 million per year). If it doesn’t get spent, it is set aside for future use. The funding can be used to help non-profits to acquire housing that is affordable to people with very low incomes and to build more housing that is affordable to people with very low incomes. Increasing the supply of housing will protect more people with very low incomes from eviction. The details of the new legislation and how it has been designed to deliver new housing to all parts of the state are provided in this article in Shelterforce: Colorado Passed a Historic Affordable Housing Measure. Is It Enough?
A national level example starts with research. This is work that is led by Matthew Desmond and the Eviction Lab, which is based at Princeton University. Desmond came to public attention when his book “Evicted” won a Pulitzer Prize. In an interview with the Guardian’s Tim Adams, Desmond says that his research is ‘step three in the one hundred that are needed to bring about real change.’ He also says that the research has opened doors for the Eviction Lab to shape policy responses, including during COVID. According to independent research, decisions to ban evictions around the country reduced the COVID death rate by 11%. You can read the full interview in The Guardian: Matthew Desmond: ‘The poverty rate in America and the UK should be zero – and I think we can get there’