Wisconsin Policy Forum released last month a review of statewide eviction data intended to inform growing discussions on practical solutions to evictions throughout the state and in Milwaukee County, where more than 40% of the state’s evictions occur. Uprooted: Evictions in Wisconsin is a brief review of Eviction Lab data that explores trends and contributing factors to evictions. The report is part of an increasing effort to find solutions to the eviction crisis in Wisconsin, the focus of Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer-prize-winning book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Dr. Desmond has noted that the situation in Milwaukee remains largely unchanged from the time he conducted his original research. Indeed, the Wisconsin State Legislature has rolled back renter protections in several ways in recent years.
Uprooted finds that Southeast Wisconsin suffers the most from frequent evictions, with Racine and Kenosha Counties joining Milwaukee as the three areas with the highest eviction rates. While the research does not find a clear correlation between housing cost-burden rates and evictions county-wide, the data demonstrate that census tracts with the highest eviction rates are areas of extreme poverty and are often predominately communities of color. The report speculates that the reason some Wisconsin counties have high housing cost burdens, but unexpectedly lower eviction rates might be because of large college student populations; students are almost always housing cost-burdened because of their low incomes but many receive support from parents, other family members, or roommates.
As for solutions, Uprooted briefly notes that a statewide eviction information service for renters, like the Tenant Resource Center in Madison, could be beneficial. The report also refers readers to a separate and more comprehensive exploration of eviction solutions produced by Wisconsin Policy Forum in September 2018 that examines the issue in Milwaukee County. No Place Like Home: Connecting and Strengthening Eviction Prevention Services in Milwaukee reports the findings from a stakeholders’ convening process that examined what it would take to decrease rampant evictions in Milwaukee County. The report emphasizes the need for better service coordination among the numerous organizations assisting renters facing eviction and recommends a “front-door” resource where renters can learn about assistance from various providers. The report also states that additional funding is needed to expand Milwaukee’s capacity to provide legal representation, eviction prevention payments, and tenant-landlord mediation. The report is silent on potential changes in state or local laws that would expand renter protections like banning no-cause evictions, instituting landlord licensing, or criminalizing self-help evictions.
Read Uprooted: Evictions in Wisconsin at: https://bit.ly/2UBJ9oT
Read No Place Like Home: Connecting and Strengthening Eviction Prevention Service in Milwaukee at: https://bit.ly/2sjlrRr