No Secret Why Rhode Island Has a High Eviction Rate


This article by Christine Dunn in the Providence Journal takes a strange (if predictable) turn:

Providence’s 2016 eviction rate, 3.82 percent, was nearly triple that of Boston in that same year (1.3 percent), according to new data from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. This group is led by sociologist Matthew Desmond, whose 2016 book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 2017. …

Why is Providence’s rate so much higher than Boston’s and New York’s when Desmond says a lack of affordable housing is a problem across the country?

According to Clement, less access to free legal assistance for Rhode Island tenants, and less state support for housing in general, are reasons Providence fares worse than Boston in the rankings.

Umm… perhaps the fact that Massachusetts — particularly the Boston area — has a much healthier economy has something to do with it?  Oddly, the article presents unemployment as an effect, not a cause, of eviction.  That presentation is especially odd because the article doesn’t allege wrongful evictions.  People just don’t have the money.  Why don’t they have the money?  Because there’s limited opportunity, here.

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That being the case, giving people free legal help would merely shift the burden to landlords, who will either have to increase rents or get out of the business, thus reducing supply and, ultimately, driving up rents again.  Adding evictions to the long list of programs that Rhode Island attempts to address with public welfare programs would increase taxes and harm the economy, thus leading to reduced ability to afford rent.

Rhode Island has no other solution than facing down its insider, I-know-a-guy system and taking the chains off our economy.  None.  And that reality brings us back to the deepest, most-fundamental problem for renters as for every don’t-know-a-guy resident:  It just makes so much more sense to leave than to try to fix the joint.

Unless Rhode Island’s governing elite and information providers shift to promoting economic freedom as the solution to the various symptoms of our state’s decline, that decline will continue.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Boston has had a Housing Court for at least 20 years; I think all of Massachusetts are covered now. They are notoriously pro-tenant. Boston has recently passed a city ordinance allowing only “fair cause eviction”. As I understand it, this limits the causes for eviction. There may be more than statistics to consider here.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I bought my first rental property at 21, so I remember a few things. Rhode Island was the last state to end “self help evictions”, i.e. change the locks, turn off the heat, etc. More recently, RI decriminalized incest. I do wonder.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Recalling that we had decriminalized incest, set me to Googling. Although we have decriminalized sodomy, we retained this one § 11-10-1 Abominable and detestable crime against nature. – Every person who shall be convicted of the abominable and detestable crime against nature, with any beast, shall be imprisoned not exceeding twenty (20) years nor less than seven (7) years.

        As I recall my history, the first person legally executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a 17 year old convicted of bestiality. My interest in this is just “fun facts to know and tell”.