The RVA Eviction Lab shines a spotlight on Virginia’s high eviction rate
by David Slipher
The Wilder School’s RVA Eviction Lab 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 redress unjust eviction processes in the commonwealth.
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. Its 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 also make the top 10 list in the country. They are Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake. 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,” said Howell. “Research demonstrates that housing instability is rooted not in individual or community failures, but in policies of exclusion, displacement, disinvestment and discrimination.”
This data tool is something our community partners have needed to conduct meaningful outreach, target resources and understand the potential for change.” – Kate Howell
Who are Virginia’s top evictors?
This is the first time that data collection has specifically tracked the property owners who are filing evictions. The Virginia Evictors Catalog 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.
Urban and Regional Studies and Planning graduate student and Wilder 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 added, “My hope is that by making data more accessible, the 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.