Housing

Renters Are Being Fleeced with Huge Rent Hikes and Evictions—And It’s Only Getting Worse

The US housing crisis has been decades in the making, but combined with an inflation squeeze and a systemic shortage of affordable housing, more renters have nowhere to go.
Maria Martinez (left) stands in the kitchen with her 23-year-old son Ricardo Martinez (right) talking to Roberto Garcia-Ceballos (reflected in the doorway) from the Community Power Collective, an organization fighting to help tenants as they face eviction from the 50-unit Tokio Hotel apartments located at 1013½ S Central Ave in downtown Los Angeles, California, on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

By Michael Sainato / The Real News Network

Gerardo Vidal, who has lived in the same apartment in Queens, New York, with his family for 9 years, recently received a $900-a-month rent increase this year. 

“It means having to uproot my entire family, given the fact we’re still having a difficult time earning money due to the pandemic and loss of jobs,” said Vidal. “It’s unfair that we are being basically forced out of places we lived in for nine years and that landlords can get away with this.” 

Vidal is one of thousands of tenants in New York and countless others around the US who are currently experiencing drastic rent increases—a trend that has been decades in the making but, combined with an inflation squeeze and systemic shortage of affordable housing, is causing havoc for renters. These rent hikes are effectively serving as evictions by landlords who know full well that tenants will likely have to move as a result, enabling the landlords to rent out units to new tenants at greater rates. 

This displacement crisis drove the push for Good Cause Eviction legislation in New York, which would have capped annual rent increases at 3 percent, or 1.5 percent of the annual percent change in the Consumer Price Index. The legislation would also have protected tenants from landlords who refuse to renew leases, except in cases of lease violations. The bill would have impacted an estimated 1.6 million households in New York and had overwhelming support from the public, according to polls conducted on the bill. Protesters were arrested in late May at the New York State Capitol during a demonstration to push for legislators to support and pass the legislation. 

“It’s unfair that we are being basically forced out of places we lived in for nine years and that landlords can get away with this.”

GERARDO VIDAL, A QUEENS, NEW YORK, TENANT WHO, ALONG WITH HIS FAMILY, WAS FORCED TO MOVE OUT OF THE APARTMENT THEY HAD LIVED IN FOR NINE YEARS AFTER RECENT RENT HIKES

Despite its widespread public support and the measurable good it would do for renters, the bill died in the Albany legislature in early June. “Instead of voting on the good-cause measure,” Gwynne Hogan writes at Gothamist, “the state Senate passed a bill that would create a commission to study affordable housing.” 

Eviction rates dropped significantly during the pandemic, thanks in large part to the Centers for Disease Control issuing a moratorium on evictions, which expired in August 2021. Even with the moratorium in effect, though, many evictions continued and landlords often found other ways to push out tenants. 

52-year-old Laura Thayer of Springfield, Missouri, lost her job on  Dec. 30, 2019. Her termination was reportedly due to repeated tardiness resulting from relying on her partner , who had been grappling with an illness right before the pandemic, for transportation. Thayer’s manager had been reporting the tardy arrivals as “no call, no shows” to upper management. Her partner had a mental breakdown right before Christmas and left her apartment to live with his parents. 

While waiting for unemployment benefits to kick in, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US in March 2020, further delaying Thayer’s intended return to work. 

Thayer was evicted from her apartment in June 2020 when her landlord refused to renew her lease, despite the fact that she had kept up with rent payments. “If the sheriff comes to physically lock you out, it’s humiliating—you’re treated like a criminal and your belongings are not treated with respect. In my case, even though I was paid in full, even overpaid, the belongings that I had not packed yet were thrown in trash bags broken and brought out by the dumpster,” said Thayer. 

Speaking to TRNN, Thayer emphasized the need for tenants facing the threat of eviction to have free legal representation Such representation is a necessity that is denied to many who understandably lack the resources to secure representation on their own when they are in the throes of losing their home; moreover,  the negative impacts an eviction can have on one’s credit and ability to secure future housing mean the stakes of braving eviction proceedings without representation are incredibly high. 

“If the sheriff comes to physically lock you out, it’s humiliating—you’re treated like a criminal and your belongings are not treated with respect. In my case, even though I was paid in full, even overpaid, the belongings that I had not packed yet were thrown in trash bags broken and brought out by the dumpster.”

LAURA THAYER, A TENANT IN SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI, WHO LOST HER JOB IN  DEC. 2019 AND WAS EVICTED FROM HER APARTMENT IN JUNE 2020

“If you do have an eviction, even if [your rent is] paid in full, you will most likely be punished as a tenant at the next place you rent. This is done in the form of extra deposits, extra amounts added on per month, but in most cases many rental companies and landlords won’t even accept you as a tenant. And the ones that do gouge you.”

Thayer has lived out of her car for the past two years, trying to financially and emotionally recover and find affordable housing, all while experiencing serious health issues with cataracts and anemia. 

“It’s impacted every aspect of my life,” she said. “The eviction has made me terrified of getting into another housing situation with a fixed lease where I do everything in my power to do what I’m supposed to do as far as getting rent caught up, taking care of the judgment, then they change the rules and decide not to renew my lease.” 

The CDC eviction moratorium ended nationwide in August 2021 and expired in other areas of the US by October 2021. Entering 2022, federal rental relief assistance programs lapsed in many states or ran out of money. Since the eviction moratoria expired, eviction filings have begun to pick back up toward pre-pandemic levels in many areas of the US, an issue that is of even greater concern given how much rental prices have been spiking in recent months. 

52-year-old Jody Francis of Rochester, New York, a member of the Rochester Tenants Union, has experienced two no-cause evictions in recent years, one at the hands of a developer purchasing his apartment building and giving all tenants 30 days notice to vacate, and another from a landlord who wouldn’t accept his rent payments because Francis refused to join his church. 

The City of Rochester has among the highest poverty rates for cities of similar size in the US. Francis noted that gentrification and a lack of affordable housing has constantly placed low-income and vulnerable residents in the city at risk of eviction, and surging rent costs have only exacerbated the situation. 

Housing advocates and tenants gather to protest against the eviction of tenants from the 50-unit Tokio Hotel apartments located at 1013½ S Central Ave in downtown Los Angeles, California, on Oct. 4, 2021. Monday morning. Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

“All of these politicians and leaders are always talking about violence and education, but how are you going to take those on if people have nowhere to live?” said Francis. “How can you think about things of that nature when we have such a severe tenant problem to begin with, [when] people are getting evicted left and right?” 

Tammie Davis of Brooklyn, New York, a Section 8 voucher recipient who works part-time, has faced difficulty in finding affordable housing or landlords who will accept her Section 8 voucher. 

She’s lived in the same apartment for 13 years and her landlord tried to evict her right before the pandemic because they wanted the property back. That eviction was halted but has recently begun proceeding through court once again, forcing Davis to try to find another place to live, which she said has been impossible. 

It’s illegal to discriminate against tenants for Section 8 vouchers; that is, landlords are not legally permitted to treat voucher recipients any differently when they apply to become a tenant. That’s not the way it works in practice, though. Davis had paid multiple application fees, submitted paperwork and personal information for various properties, and often never received a response  

“It’s very time consuming,” said Davis. “They discriminate because they think everybody that has a voucher—that you’re not good people, that they’re not good tenants.”

One 2022 report by Realtor.com found rent in the 50 largest metro areas in the US jumped 16.7 percent compared to a year prior, to the point that the median rental price in May 2022 was $2,002 a month, a record high. The hikes are squeezing Americans who were already bearing the brunt of inflation and rising prices of consumer goods, including huge spikes in the prices of gas, food, and other raw materials—costs that have been pushed on to consumers while   some of the largest corporations in the world experience record profits

Tara Sickinger Curl of Boise, Idaho, experienced a $240 monthly increase to her rent this year, from $1,710 to $1,950 a month, after initially renting her apartment for $1,510 in 2019. 

“This is a huge stretch considering I work three jobs and donate plasma to make ends meet,” said Sickinger Curl, who cares for two teenage daughters and isn’t able to downsize to a smaller apartment, though she noted the rent in Boise for a one bedroom costs around $1,700 a month. “Is it wrong to want the same quality of life for my children they’ve always had?”

Michael Sainato
Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato is a contributor to The Guardian and a journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @msainat1.

9 comments

  1. Inflation is always, always monetary. Look to the Fed if your frustrated
    with price hikes.

    1. To Larry,
      Good grief! So folks are supposed to “look to the Fed” – from their tents in the streets? They can’t even see it from there …

  2. For centuries the So-Called Elite have DOMINATED humanity through fear, wars, deceit, subterfuge and separation such that the masses could never Unify to defeat this insanity. Now the masses are realizing that they are God Consciousness and that EARTH was meant for all of Humanity to live on the planet FREE OF CHARGE. They set up this Debt slavery system long ago and the masses accepted it as if the Elite had a Divine right to DOMINATE them. We the People must now take back our Earth for all of humanity to live FREE of CHARGE. Who are they that they are permitted to control lands and commodities, banks and businesses, and Government. The scam is OVER.

  3. Traditional indigenous people didn’t recognize the immoral concept of land ownership. As I heard a Native in this country say, you can’t own the land, if anything the land owns you.

    The more important spiritual and environmental issues aside, that’s the problem here. Landlords shouldn’t exist. They provide no benefit to anyone, and no one should have to pay them. Pay the people who build, maintain, repair, and clean properties. But landlords? Nope!

  4. The first thing I did after I read this was call my NY State Assemblyman and Sen. to express my outrage at the absurdity of setting up a “Commission” when folks are being kicked to the streets – are they supposed to make a tent out of the Commissions report?

    I was able to contact my Assenblyman’s office, talk to a real person (Wow!) and convey my thoughts. When I tried to call my Senator – local office answering machine was “full” and at the Albany office, wound up with a “Busy” signal – so I e-mailed and I suspect either no response or one of those “let me assure you we give a shit, and are looking into it, will get back to you ” – when the cows come home, and haven’t seen cows in Albany for ages, just lots of parasites …

    And these guys wonder why the Dems will take a bath in Nov – they should have cleaned up their act sooner …

    1. @SH
      You’re not a donor, so they’ll just ignore you. And no one is wondering why the Democrats are going to be wiped out in the midterms, it’s rather obvious.

  5. The whole thing is so difficult. I was a landlord for a while because my job forced me far away for a few years. The rent I got was less than half of the market rate. The tenant paid on and off but I was too far away to deal with it. I moved back and the tenant refused to move out and so I spent six months living in my car. The private housing market does not work. The only winners are the unscrupulous landlords and the unscrupulous tenants.

    1. Do you know who is largest landlord in the US?

      Huge Wall Street hedge fund called Black Rock, it is comparable to Vanguard that owns half of the world.

      Hundreds PE and other Wall Street speculators and oligarchic cronies closely follow.

      What this means is that we have near monopoly in rental markets like in any markets in the west.

      Even Bloomberg complained that incessant cross ownership of funds among oligarchs destroys last shred of competition among corporations and that includes RE corporations owning or managing multi and single family home rentals. Needles to say that they control entire Real Estate market and set prices for home sales and rentals.

      They are not buying those properties to sell for profit or rent them for income. They use those income properties as collateral for hedging wall street investments in highly speculative high yield using income RE loans which are continuously rehypothecated (different RE loans having the same RE collateral (House) ) .

      And the value of such collateral of RE loans is dependent on how much potential income such property may create. Potential not actual income.

      What it means that for those funds it is more beneficial to raise that rents so high that half or more of tenants move out only to increase value of income property collateral used for Wall Street speculation.

      They do not care for income from property as they can make ten fold more by speculating than from renting to real persons.

      RE and all markets are hopelessly corrupted and criminal and plenty of small fishes are in jail for it while oligarchy who actually ordered and engaged in criminality get richer.

      Covid marked unprecedented escalation of class war and that attack on working people is just a part of it. It is disgusting to watch corrupted left either utterly clueless or corrupted to the bone by the US oligarchic rule as Princeton Study proved.

      Those who want to fight for humanity and justice include decent housing should get their enemies right as those are not bankers or huge landlords, they are weak morally bankrupt we can defeat them . It is sherif with his gun and government repression power that threatens our lives.

  6. “as one digs deeper into the national character of amerikans one sees they have sought the value of everything in this world according to the answer to a single question: how much money will it bring in?” Tocqueville

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