March 9, 2023
RVA Eviction Lab shines a spotlight on Virginia’s high eviction rate
Virginia Evictors Catalog database, which shows who is responsible for the highest number of court-based evictions and eviction filings, is the first tool released in collaboration with UVA’s Equity Center to address unjust eviction processes.
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The RVA Eviction Lab in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University has partnered with the University of Virginia’s Equity Center to provide data on landlords with high eviction court filings. Together, they created the Virginia Evictors Catalog, a database that catalogs property owner plaintiffs who have filed tenant evictions across Virginia. The goal is to use the data to learn how best to address unjust eviction processes in the state.
Urban and Regional Studies and Planning program associate professors Kathryn Howell, Ph.D., and Ben Teresa, Ph.D., are co-directors of the Wilder School RVA Eviction Lab. The lab’s research shows that the city of Richmond eviction rate is greater than 11%, making it the second-highest in the nation. Four other Virginia cities — Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake — are also among the 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the U.S. Howell says eviction filings and judgments have returned to pre-pandemic levels and have an impact on renters regardless of economic circumstances.
“The social cost of housing instability is enormous. It affects the physical health, mental well-being, employment and educational attainment of individuals and families, with people of color being disproportionately affected,” Howell said. “Research demonstrates that housing instability is rooted not in individual or community failures, but in policies of exclusion, displacement, disinvestment and discrimination.”
Who are Virginia’s top evictors?
The Virginia Evictors Catalog project is the first time that data collection has specifically tracked the property owners who are filing evictions in Virginia. The data reveals that evictions are not evenly dispersed across landlords. In Richmond, for example, just 15 landlords are responsible for more than half of all evictions.
“This project is part of our ongoing work to respond to community needs for information that can prevent housing instability in the commonwealth,” Howell said.
The database provides insights from publicly available Virginia General District Court data (January 2018 to September 2022) on who is responsible for the highest number of court-based evictions and eviction filings (i.e., name of plaintiff filing the case), where they are happening, how many cases they've filed and how many eviction judgments have resulted from those filings.
“This data tool is something our community partners have needed to conduct meaningful outreach, target resources and understand the potential for change,” Howell said.
Urban and Regional Studies and Planning graduate student and Wilder Graduate Scholars Fellow Hannah Woehrle has worked with the RVA Eviction Lab to compile the data for the eviction catalog. For Woehrle, it’s a valuable experience to reframe the narrative from those being evicted to those responsible for the evicting.
“When you're studying the harms resulting from past policy and planning interventions, it can be hard to avoid a well-intentioned but ultimately disempowering victim rhetoric,” she said. “My hope is that by making data more accessible, the Virginia Evictors Catalog will help balance the power dynamic between tenants and landlords and shift the conversation around housing justice in the process.”
The Virginia Evictors Catalog is part of the Virginia Housing Justice Atlas project, which is being steered by an advisory committee made up of representatives from housing justice organizations in the Richmond and Charlottesville areas.
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