How Atlanta’s eviction crisis makes homeownership impossible for many

by Peter Thomas Ricci

atlanta-skyline-night

A number of housing markets in Atlanta are facing astounding levels of evictions, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The numbers are striking: in Fulton County, more than 22 percent of renting households received an eviction notice in 2015, compared to 7 percent in Chicago and 11 percent in Cleveland. And similar to recent research on negative equity – which found that underwater mortgages are much more common in majority Black communities – the Atlanta Fed found that evictions are more prominent in Atlanta’s Black neighborhoods.

“This research describes extremely high housing instability in Fulton County,” the report stated. “[E]victions are spatially concentrated in predominantly Black census tracts, and extremely high levels of housing instability exist in many areas of Southwest Atlanta and Fulton County.”

Using data from the Atlanta Fed’s report, we’ve charted the 10 Atlanta areas where evictions are the most common – including a few markets where evictions are double Fulton’s already high levels:

Area Number of Eviction Notices Number of Rental Households Share Receiving Eviction Notices
East Point (30344) 3,031 6,564 46%
Union City (30291) 1,888 4,260 44%
College Park (30337) 1,478 3,339 44%
Greenbriar/Fairburn/Westside Hills (30331) 4,088 10,063 41%
Fulton County Airport (30336) 145 3,84 38%
Cascade Road/Audobon Forest/Mangum Manor (30311) 2,591 7,524 34%
Fairburn/Campbellton (30213) 1,090 3,236 34%
Atanta University Center (30314) 1,472 4,407 33%
South Atlanta/Lakewood Heights (30315) 2,238 7,473 30%
Sylvan Hills/Pittsburgh (30310) 1,842 6,395 29%

How evictions affect Atlanta’s housing market

In its report, the Atlanta Fed was unsparing in describing the effects of mass evictions.

“The data show extremely high levels of residential displacement in Atlanta, levels that in other cities have been linked to high levels of crime, schools beset with constant turnover, lack of community cohesion, and a dilapidated built environment,” the report stated.

Even worse, evictions make it more difficult to find quality housing, given that most landlords refuse to rent to consumers who have been evicted in recent years; thus, evicted households almost always move to areas with fewer resources, higher crime, and less economic opportunity.

But what is behind the eviction crisis? How could nearly half the rental households in East Point, Union City, and College Park receive eviction notices? The Atlanta Fed’s conclusions were identical to that of Matthew Desmond, who chronicled Milwaukee’s eviction crisis in his acclaimed book Evicted: wages have been stagnant for decades, especially for low-income Americans; as a result, those Americans are devoting more and more of their income to housing, such that more than half of renters in Atlanta are cost burdened and commit 30 percent or more of their income to housing. And with asking rents rising year after year, an increasing share of renters are finding it difficult to balance housing costs with life’s many other expenses.

So it all leads to a stark conclusion: for the tens of thousands of Atlanta renters who face eviction, homeownership is a far off dream. And if the eviction crisis only grows, fewer and fewer Atlanta residents will be able to buy homes.