A Perfect Storm? Disasters and Evictions

Project Info
  • Theme Forms of Power
  • Type Research
  • Scale Metropolitan
  • Location Florida
  • AuthorsJustin SteilMiho MazereeuwMark BrennanTanaya SriniLarisa Ovalles

Stable housing is a fundamental platform for individual and collective well-being, and research indicates that a significant disruptive effect of severe environmental disasters is residential displacement. Despite extensive research on the intersection of disasters and housing, the effect of major disasters on evictions remains understudied. How do landlords and renters respond to the economic dislocation that accompanies disasters and to what extent do major disasters lead to evictions?

To answer these questions, we adopt a mixed methods approach. Analyzing county-level data on evictions and disasters between 2000 and 2016, we find that disasters are associated with significant increases in evictions in the year of a disaster and the two years following a disaster and that increases in the housing cost burden are associated with higher eviction rates. We complement these quantitative findings with qualitative interviews and archival analysis from Panama City, Florida in the year after Hurricane Michael. The qualitative findings suggest that eviction dynamics may differ by landlord size and identify challenges for small landlords accessing federal assistance, particularly because of clouded titles from unrecorded property transfers. Together, the findings indicate that disasters increase evictions and lead to significant disruption for many low-income tenants for years after the disaster.