The United States has been facing a housing affordability crisis for at least a decade, and it should come as no surprise that Connecticut’s cities have not been immune. The nation’s eviction rate peaked in 2006, when 7.5 percent of renter-occupied households had eviction filings made against them, and 3.1 percent were evicted from their homes. Connecticut’s eviction rate peaked earlier, at 3.9 percent in 2003, but remains slightly higher than the nationwide rate.
A new large-scale data collection project is shedding light on evictions all across the country. The Eviction Lab —a research group at Princeton University headed by Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2016 book Evicted— recently launched its online database of evictions in cities and towns across the country, going back as early as 2000. The lab’s site lets users map, chart, and download data, and zooms down to the neighborhood level.
In 2016, an average of 38 households were evicted each day in Connecticut. Like many other socioeconomic phenomena, the problem of evictions is largely, though not entirely, concentrated in several of Connecticut’s cities. However, it’s not simply the state’s largest cities where evictions are at their highest. New Haven and Stamford, for example, both have surprisingly low rates. Instead, East Hartford, New Britain, and Meriden had among the highest rates in the state in 2016.
Connecticut’s top 10 highest eviction rates, 2016
|Name||Eviction rate||Number of households evicted|
Note: Only cities with at least 5,000 renters shown. EvictionLab data currently unavailable in much of Litchfield and Windham Counties.
The neighborhoods hit hardest by evictions tend to, on average, have lower renter incomes, higher poverty rates, lower property values, and greater racial diversity than the state. In fact, if we split neighborhoods throughout the state into groups of lower-, middle-, and higher-income areas, the average rent is about the same in middle-income neighborhoods as it is in lower-income ones; the primary difference between these two types of communities is average household income, and therefore the ability to make rent payments in full and on time. In these lower-income areas, a third of renting households have to put at least half their income toward rent and other housing costs, such that even a moderate rent can become impossible to pay.
In a talk at the Urban Institute launching the Eviction Lab website, Desmond made the point that eviction is not just a big city problem. Among the handful of smaller cities Desmond mentioned where residents are grappling with high eviction rates was Waterbury, Connecticut. In fact, of cities with at least 100,000 residents, Waterbury had the highest 2016 eviction rate in the Northeast —6.1 percent— and the 22nd highest in the country.
There are other data points that can help put this in context. In particular, the statewide 2015 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey found that 8 percent of Waterbury adults had dealt with housing insecurity, or the inability to afford adequate housing, at some point in the previous year. Similarly, Hartford had the Northeast’s second-highest eviction rate at 5.7 percent, while 12 percent of adults reported housing insecurity.
Even with the Eviction Lab’s massive undertaking, this data is an undercount. Unknown numbers of renters are informally evicted, forced by a landlord to move out without going to court and therefore without leaving a paper trail. For this reason, the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey has added new questions related to this concern in its 2018 wave.
Having accurate, local-level data allows advocates, policymakers, and residents to understand the depth of Connecticut’s housing crisis, and pinpoint the neighborhoods being hit hardest. Eviction isn’t a problem that only happens in very large cities elsewhere, but is instead rampant throughout our state. The researchers as the Eviction Lab stress that the effects of being evicted aren’t limited to housing, but ripple through to other aspects of families’ stability, employment, education, and health, and impact not just individual families, but their entire communities. Desmond argues that eviction isn’t only a symptom of poverty, but also a cause of it, and that having data is a first step in understanding cycles of poverty in our communities.
Camille Seaberry is a Research Associate at DataHaven , a non-profit formal partner of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership with a 25-year history of public service to Connecticut. Explore data for Connecticut, your town or neighborhood, or just about anywhere else in the U.S. at evictionlab.org.