Do scholars ever actually interview landlords who pay property taxes and for local licenses, maintenance, and repair, not to mention the cost of capital (mortgages) so that they can own a decent property and make it available to tenants? Nowhere in the Eviction Lab’s one-sided analysis is a prediction of what will happen to property owners, and the taxes they pay to local governments, if tenants stop paying rent.

I know many small-time landlords who rehab and offer modest, livable homes to tenants by spending $50,000–$70,000 of their own (and a lender’s) money per housing unit. Renting these properties out at a market rate can lead to modest profit over the cost of capital if everything goes well. This kind of investment has turned many blocks of otherwise blighted Trenton into sustainable, affordable tax-paying housing. 

If a tenant has a temporary problem, we try to work things out, as stability is in everyone’s interest. It is only when there is damage and abuse to the property, and/or many months of nonpayment, that eviction is considered. For good reasons, it is not easy to accomplish. 

Whether housing is a right or not (and who would pay for it) is beyond my letter. But I do know that this kind of research on the effects of eviction usually comes with recommendations that do not consider the investment and effort required to provide market-based housing in the first place. The unintended consequences have previously been experienced in many cities, 40 to 50 years ago.

Douglas Rubin ’81
Princeton, N.J.