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Eviction is higher among Richmond's Black, Brown residents

The federal ban on evictions, extended by President Biden through March, is a much-needed, yet only temporary pause on a looming crisis. Retro Report reports from Richmond, VA, which has one of the highest eviction rates in the nation, on how Confederate history and race are the biggest factors in determining which residents are at a higher risk of being evicted.

AIRED: February 28, 2021 | 0:07:08
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TRANSCRIPT

>> Sreenivasan: PRESIDENT JOE

BIDEN'S LATEST RELIEF PLAN

INCLUDES BILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO

HELP RENTERS WHO HAVE FALLEN

BEHIND ON PAYMENTS BECAUSE OF

PANDEMIC-RELATED JOB LOSSES.

HE'S ALSO EXTENDED THE FEDERAL

BAN ON EVICTIONS THROUGH MARCH,

WHICH THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE

CONTROL AND PREVENTION ENACTED

AS A PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURE.

BUT THE FEDERAL PAUSE ON

EVICTIONS IS NOT AN AUTOMATIC

BAN.

SINCE LAST SPRING, IN THE 27

CITIES TRACKED BY PRINCETON

UNIVERSITY'S EVICTION LAB,

NEARLY 250,000 TENANTS HAVE BEEN

EVICTED.

"RETRO REPORT," A NON-PROFIT

ORGANIZATION, WANTED TO KNOW HOW

THAT'S HAPPENING, AND TO WHOM.

THEY WENT TO RICHMOND, VIRGINIA,

A CITY WITH ONE OF THE NATION'S

HIGHEST EVICTION RATES, TO LOOK

FOR ANSWERS.

BRIAN PALMER REPORTS.

>> Reporter: IN HIS FIRST DAYS

AS PRESIDENT, JOE BIDEN ISSUED A

FLURRY OF ORDERS AND

ANNOUNCEMENTS ON A RANGE OF

ISSUES-- IMMIGRATION, PANDEMIC

RELIEF, EDUCATION.

LESS NOTICED WERE HIS

ADMINISTRATION'S MOVES TO DEAL

WITH ANOTHER NATIONAL PROBLEM,

THAT OF EVICTIONS.

>> THIS CANNOT BE WHO WE ARE AS

A COUNTRY.

WE CANNOT LET PEOPLE BE EVICTED

BECAUSE OF NOTHING THEY DID

THEMSELVES.

>> Reporter: ANNOUNCING THAT THE

C.D.C.'S EVICTION MORATORIUM

WOULD BE EXTENDED BY AT LEAST

TWO MONTHS.

THAT MORATORIUM, WHICH IS NOT A

BLANKET BAN, HAS SLOWED EVICTION

FILINGS IN CITIES LIKE

RICHMOND-- BUT IT HASN'T STOPPED

THEM.

>> I HAD BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH

CORONAVIRUS.

SO, I STAYED QUARANTINED IN THE

HOUSE.

WHEN I FIRST GOT THE EVICTION

NOTICE I WAS IN THE BED.

>> Reporter: EZEKIEL HICKS PAYS

$1,000 A MONTH FOR AN APARTMENT

IN THE SOUTH SIDE SECTION OF A

CITY WHERE, EVEN BEFORE THE

PANDEMIC, ROUGHLY ONE IN NINE

RENTERS FACED EVICTION-- MEANING

A LANDLORD WON A COURT CASE

AGAINST A TENANT OR ACTUALLY

KICKED THEM OUT.

>> I GET UP AND I LOOK AT THE

DOOR.

I SEE A YELLOW PIECE OF PAPER ON

MY DOOR.

AND I READ IT AND IT WAS LIKE,

YOU KNOW, "YOU HAVE 30 DAYS TO

BE-- WE WANT YOU OUT OF HERE AT

A CERTAIN DATE, AT A CERTAIN

TIME."

>> MR. HICKS IS LIKE SO MANY

VIRGINIANS, RICHMONDERS,

AMERICANS RIGHT NOW.

HE WAS CURRENT ON HIS RENT RIGHT

UP UNTIL THE TIME THAT HE LOST

WORK.

BUT BECAUSE OF COVID-19,

LITERALLY IN MR. HICKS'S CASE,

BECAUSE OF COVID-19, HE WAS

UNABLE TO WORK AND AS A

CONSEQUENCE, NOW HE'S UNABLE TO

PAY HIS RENT.

>> Reporter: WITHOUT INCOME,

HICKS MISSED SOME RENT PAYMENTS

STARTING IN MAY.

OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS, AS

HIS LANDLORD TRIED TO EVICT HIM,

THE AMOUNT HE OWED BALLOONED TO

$6,000-- INCLUDING NOT JUST BACK

RENT, BUT LATE CHARGES, PLUS HIS

LANDLORD'S LEGAL FEES.

HICKS'S SITUATION ISN'T UNIQUE,

ACCORDING TO PROFESSOR BENJAMIN

TERESA, WHO STUDIES HOUSING AND

URBAN DEVELOPMENT.

>> PEOPLE WHO WERE ALREADY

PREDOMINANTLY RENTERS, IN TERMS

OF WORKING IN THE HOSPITALITY

SECTOR AND HOTELS AND SERVICES

THAT ARE HARD HIT BY BOTH THE

PANDEMIC AND RECESSION, THAT

THEY'VE LOST HOURS OR LOST THEIR

JOB COMPLETELY.

AND SO, THEY'RE EVEN MORE

VULNERABLE TO LOSING THEIR HOMES

TO EVICTION.

>> FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

HOUSING IS A RIGHT!

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

HOUSING IS A RIGHT!

>> Reporter: THE MORATORIUM

GIVES TENANTS TEMPORARY RELIEF;

BUT WHEN IT ENDS, BACK RENT

COMES DUE IN FULL.

THAT PUTS THE BURDEN RIGHT BACK

WHERE IT WAS BEFORE THE

PANDEMIC: ON THE SEGMENT OF THE

POPULATION THAT HAS LONG BEEN

MARGINALIZED AND DISADVANTAGED.

ABOUT 25% OF PEOPLE HERE LIVE

BELOW BY THE POVERTY LINE.

RESEARCHERS AT VIRGINIA

COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY FOUND

THAT THE DECISIVE FACTOR IN

EVICTIONS IN RICHMOND ISN'T LACK

OF MONEY.

EVEN AFTER CONTROLLING FOR

INCOME AND PROPERTY VALUE, THEY

FOUND RICHMOND'S MOST DECISIVE

FACTOR IN EVICTIONS IS RACE.

>> THE MOST INFLUENTIAL FACTOR

AT THE NEIGHBORHOOD LEVEL ON

EVICTION RATES IN A NEIGHBORHOOD

IS THE RACIAL COMPOSITION OF THE

NEIGHBORHOOD.

SO, AS THE NEIGHBORHOOD HAS A

HIGHER SHARE OF BLACK AND

AFRICAN-AMERICAN RESIDENTS, IT

ALSO HAS A HIGHER EVICTION RATE,

AND THEN, CONVERSELY, IF THE

NEIGHBORHOOD IS WHITER, IT HAS A

LOWER EVICTION RATE.

>> Reporter: WHILE THERE'S NO

PERFECT COMPARISON, TWO EXAMPLES

OF VIRGINIA SHOW A STARK

CONTRAST.

NEARLY 50% OF RICHMOND'S

POPULATION IS BLACK, AND THE

PRE-PANDEMIC EVICTION RATE WAS

JUST OVER 11%.

BUCHANAN AND DICKENSON COUNTIES

HAVE NEARLY THE SAME POVERTY

RATE AS THE CITY OF RICHMOND,

YET THEIR EVICTION RATES HAVE

BEEN BELOW 1%.

BOTH COUNTIES' POPULATIONS ARE

ALSO MORE THAN 95% WHITE.

WHY DOES THE BURDEN OF EVICTIONS

WEIGH HEAVIEST ON RICHMOND'S

BLACK AND BROWN CITIZENS?

ONE EXPLANATION MAY LIE IN THE

PAST, WHEN A RACIAL CASTE SYSTEM

RULED THE SOUTH, SAYS HOUSING

ADVOCATE TRACEY HARDNEY SCOTT.

>> THIS IS STILL THE HOME OF THE

CONFEDERACY, SO RACISM RUNS

RAMPANT IN HERE.

AND THE BEST WAY TO CONTROL

NEGROS, IS TO KEEP THEM IN A

PLACE.

AND SO, THE BEST PLACE TO KEEP

THEM IS TOTALLY IN LOW INCOME,

LACK OF, LACK OF, LACK OF, LACK

OF RESOURCES, LACK OF EDUCATION.

>> Reporter: UNTIL THE MID-20th

CENTURY, BLACKS WERE LARGELY

EXCLUDED FROM POLITICAL DECISION

MAKING, CONFINED TO CERTAIN

NEIGHBORHOODS, REDLINED INTO

ZONES WHERE BANKS WOULDN'T OFFER

MORTGAGES, AND GENERALLY MADE

SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS BY

AMERICAN LAW AND CUSTOM.

>> IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S

GOING ON IN AFRICAN AMERICAN

COMMUNITIES IN THE 21st CENTURY,

YOU'VE GOT TO WALK THROUGH THE

FIRE OF JIM CROW SEGREGATION.

THERE ARE RESIDUAL EFFECTS FROM

THE PUBLIC POLICIES OF THE MID-

20th CENTURY THAT CONTINUE TO

STILL RESONATE PROFOUNDLY IN THE

21st CENTURY.

>> Reporter: THE CENTURY THAT

GAVE US THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS,

WHICH HAS HIT BLACK, BROWN, AND

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE-- ALL

HISTORICALLY MARGINALIZED--

WITH PARTICULAR FEROCITY.

>> THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT

HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE WHO HAVE

BEEN COMPRESSED IN THE

NEIGHBORHOODS, WHO LIVE IN

MULTI-GENERATIONAL HOUSEHOLDS,

WHO WORK ON THE FRONT LINES OF

PARTICULAR JOBS, UNDERPAYING

JOBS, THAT CARRY A HIGH AMOUNT

OF THE VIRAL LOAD.

DISEASES MAY NOT CARE ABOUT RACE

OR SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS, BUT

SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS AND RACE

HAVE A PROFOUND INFLUENCE ON THE

NATURE IN WHICH DISEASES AFFECT

CERTAIN PEOPLE AND NOT OTHERS.

>> Reporter: HICKS EVENTUALLY

RECOVERED FROM THE VIRUS.

DESPITE BEING LEGALLY COVERED BY

THE MORATORIUM, IT TOOK THE HELP

OF A LEGAL AID ATTORNEY TO PAY

BACK RENT WITH FUNDS FROM A CITY

RENT RELIEF PROGRAM AND TO GET

HIS EVICTION CASE DISMISSED.

>> RIGHT NOW, MY RENT IS PAID UP

THROUGH A PROGRAM THAT HE

INTRODUCED ME TO.

AND MY RENT IS PAID UP AND I'M

TRYING TO GET THIS OTHER JOB

BECAUSE THE JOB THAT I HAD, I

CAN'T DO THAT NO MORE, SO.

>> Reporter: HICKS SAYS HE HAS

SAVED SOME MONEY TO PAY RENT,

BUT HE'S BEEN HUNTING FOR STEADY

WORK FOR MONTHS.

HE'LL MAKE ENDS MEET ANY WAY HE

CAN.

>> PLASMA CENTER, DIFFERENT

JOBS, ODDS AND ENDS JOBS.

I CAN'T GO THROUGH THIS NO MORE.

YOU KNOW, I'M A GROWN,

INDEPENDENT MAN.

IF I GOT TO, I WILL GO PICK CANS

UP AND CUT GRASS, RAKE LEAVES,

WHATEVER TO PAY MY RENT.