The state of evictions in Memphis, Tennessee

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2020-12-06

Authors

Uhlmann, Alexander Martin

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Abstract

Evictions, defined as the forced removal of a tenant by their landlord, have increasingly become a topic of interest for housing researchers because of the documented negative impact evictions have on renters and the communities they live in. Unfortunately, research on evictions is limited because many court systems do not provide eviction data in forms accessible to investigation. This research project benefits from a unique data set that contains every eviction filed in Shelby County General Sessions Court from 2016-2019. I find that 110,834 evictions were filed during this period, and the average eviction filing rate was an alarmingly high 17.7%, which remained remarkably consistent from year to year. I also found that evictions were incredibly concentrated into a handful of zip codes. Out of the 32 zip codes in Shelby County, the five zip codes with the highest eviction filing rates make up 45.4% of all eviction filed from 2016-2019. Possible reasons for Memphis high rate of evictions are a court process that favors landlords and an influx of private equity into the single-family rental market in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. I recommend a comprehensive transformation of the American housing system with a suite of proposals aimed at solving broad housing affordability issues to remedy the eviction issue. Given current political realities that make short-term adoption of these policies unlikely, I also recommend maintaining and expanding local eviction prevention measures adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic after the pandemic has subsided

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