A new study on evictions in Washington suggests people of color bear the brunt of the state's growing pains. The report also points to powerful economic forces (the Great Recession, the "Amazon effect") to explain the rise of homelessness in King County.
Led by Timothy Thomas, head of the UW Evictions Project, the report was released at a press conference held by Democratic state legislators last Thursday in support of a roster of legislation aimed at redressing the state's housing crisis.
The study examined eviction trends across the state and found that the most racially diverse neighborhoods have the most evictions, Thomas said at the press conference. The study suggests that in King County, one in 11 black adults was evicted between 2013 and 2017. In Pierce County, it suggests one in six black adults was evicted over the same time period. For white adults, those numbers look different: one in 50 in Pierce County and one in 100 in King County. Thomas also found that black women are seven times more likely to be evicted than white women.
“To me, eviction is the same as redlining, the same as block-busting, the same as every single thing that has proceeded from the creation of the ghetto,” Thomas said.
Thomas traces King County's current eviction crisis to the region’s recovery from the Great Recession. Around 2012, as the economy and housing market bounced back, population and median income rose from a tech-fueled injection of wealth. Demand for housing shot up, but low- and middle-income residents’ ability to pay didn’t grow in step. All of which, Thomas told Seattle Met, has led to the displacement and eviction of low- and middle-income King County residents.
Thomas points to the loss of more than 90,000 market affordable units (defined as housing units available at a market rate of $800 per month or less) since 2000, calculated from Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census data. Of those lost units, 85 percent were lost between 2012 and 2017.
Democratic state legislators hope the study will gin up support for legislation that addresses Washington's eviction crisis and housing affordability.
On Thursday, state representative Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland) advocated for Senate Bill 5600 and House Bill 1453. Both bills would extend the warning period a landlord is required to give a tenant before they're evicted from its current three days to two or three weeks.
“I am still homeless as your state representative,” Morgan said at the press conference, leveraging her personal experience and decrying the state's current eviction laws as disproportionately harmful to people of color. “I stand before you without a house key in my pocket.”