Also by Reinvestment Fund

Evictions in Philadelphia: Race (and Place) Matters

Reinvestment Fund’s research report provides new insight into how many Black and Hispanic renters in Philadelphia face an eviction filing compared to other racial and ethnic groups. While previous research has documented the persistent, statistically significant effect of Census tract-level racial composition on filing volume, this is the first look at the racial and ethnic characteristics of the universe of residential eviction defendants.

The study, which examined all residential eviction filings from 2018-2019, found that Black households are more likely to experience eviction filings, disproportionate to their presence among Philadelphia’s renters. Even when Black people live in predominantly White or mixed-race areas, they are more likely subject to an eviction filing by their landlord. Hispanic residents are also at a disadvantage to Whites, particularly when they live in areas where they make up a smaller share of the population. The report also shows that while most evictions are filed outside of gentrifying areas, Black and Hispanic renters are more likely to be over-represented in eviction filings in neighborhoods that evince signs of gentrification such as Point Breeze, Brewerytown, East Kensington, and Mifflin Square. At the same time, the Black and Hispanic populations have declined in those areas.

The following are some of the findings:

  • Black renters in Philadelphia face evictions at more than double the White rate. As a group, Black Philadelphians experienced an annual eviction filing rate (8.8%) that was 2.8 times higher than the rate for White (3.1%) Philadelphians. The rate for Hispanic tenants (5.2%) was also higher than for Whites.
  • The private housing market’s volume of filings is driving the overall disparity between filing rates for Black and White renters.An estimated 86% of all filings against Black renters took place in the private housing market. While the study did find public housing tenants face a much higher filing rate overall (15.9% compared to 6.2%), Black public housing residents actually experience a lower eviction filing rate than White public housing residents (14.5% v. 19.0%).
  • Black tenants were substantially over-represented among households facing an eviction filing. Less than half (45.4%) of Philadelphia tenants are Black, yet two in every three (65.9%) eviction filing defendants are Black. By contrast, Whites account for a third (33.9%) of tenants but just 17.3% of eviction filings.
  • Black renters were over-represented in filings in many neighborhoods, but more so in areas that are racially mixed.The greatest disproportionality in Black filing rates are found In neighborhoods that are between 20% and 50%, and 50-80% Black. In 43% of the city’s Census tracts, the Black share of renter households with an eviction filing is substantially greater than the share of all renter households. Black renters are under-represented in filings in only 15% of the city’s tracts.For Hispanic renter households, the eviction filing rate is lower (4.9%) in tracts where they made up more than 25% of the population. By contrast, in tracts where they totaled less than 5% of the population, the filing rate is 10.3%. Additionally, Hispanic over-representation among those who face eviction was frequently observed in areas just outside communities wherein Hispanics predominate.
  • Black and brown renters are more likely to face evictions in recently gentrifying areas of Philadelphia, including those areas that are historic communities of color. Because public conversations around eviction and gentrification are often intertwined, and given that both can be mechanisms of displacement, Reinvestment Fund identified areas of concern for involuntary, price-based displacement associated with gentrification and analyzed evictions filings in those areas. The analysis found that Black and Hispanic renters are more over-represented in eviction filings relative to their shares of all renter households in the currently “hot” market areas including Point Breeze, Brewerytown and Kensington than they are in areas with stable or declining home prices. And while the Black population has been stable and Hispanic population growing, in gentrifying areas where the eviction filing rates are disproportionate, the Black and Hispanic populations are declining.

Reinvestment Fund’s previous analyses have underscored the outsized impact the current health and economic crises are having on the same groups of people who were already more likely to face an eviction filing. As the nation grapples with the myriad manifestations of entrenched racism and discrimination, understanding the difference between people-based and place-based impacts of eviction filings and outcomes is crucial for impactful changes to policy, procedures, and resources to promote racial equity and community stability.

This report is the fifth in a series supported by the Oak Foundation and the William Penn Foundation to catalogue our findings based on research into evictions with the goals of informing and supporting ongoing efforts to reduce the effects of eviction on households and communities.