Addressing the Real Costs of Housing Displacement

Cost of Housing Displacement

At a time of persistently high foreclosure rates, increased rental demand, and a shortage of affordable rental units, displaced renters find themselves in particularly difficult situations. Reasons for displacement range from building condemnation to foreclosure to developers’ interests in rehabilitation or condominium conversion, but the consequences are the same: renters bear the burden of being forced to move, often with little or no warning and with little to no extra resources to do so.

Some of the costs associated with housing displacement are higher rents, risk of homelessness, and costlier health care. Rents are higher in part because one of the effects the foreclosure crisis is a saturated rental market, as it both shrinks the number of available units and grows the number of new households seeking to rent. As high rates of foreclosure persist, renters find it increasingly difficult to find replacement housing at comparable price points. When households are unable to locate new housing immediately, they are often forced to find temporary housing, either by doubling up with family and friends or at a homeless shelter. LCBH’s most recent Tenants in Foreclosure Intervention Project report, issued in June, found that these temporary living situations last an average of seven months, an indication of the significant difficulty some renters face when trying to secure new housing. The long length of stay also highlights the reality that some displaced renters end up homeless, a risk that can be quantified in terms of social cost. Additionally, unstable housing situations have health implications and related health care costs. People who struggle to make ends meet have higher needs for acute care, including emergency room visits and other secondary care services.

LCBH often encounters the problem of renters being excluded from building court proceedings. Renters cannot advocate for their own interests or request additional time or relocation assistance if they are unaware of ongoing court proceedings that have the potential to profoundly change their housing situations. Given the reality that renters are falling through the cracks, LCBH is undertaking a new initiative that seeks to highlight the ways in which building court can improve with regard to renter inclusion, especially in cases where renters’ homes may be at stake. In light of the full costs of displacement, which renters currently bear, one aspect of the project will be to advocate for the consistent awarding of relocation assistance when people must be displaced from their homes.