Moving from Data to Action on Evictions in Mecklenburg County
Author: Kassie Scott
Date Posted: June 10, 2019
Evictions have many consequences for families, leading to the loss of housing, possessions, and sometimes jobs. Individuals and families even experience declines in mental and physical health. In partnership with Mecklenburg County, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Urban Institute (UNC Charlotte) revealed which neighborhoods in Mecklenburg experience formal evictions most frequently, which people are disproportionately affected, and how eviction filings vary by month.
But Mecklenburg County went beyond just acknowledging that evictions are a problem; UNC Charlotte’s reports inspired Mecklenburg County government, businesses, and philanthropy to act and change local policies and spending.
For example, Mecklenburg County is now working to change the fact that most residents facing eviction do not have legal representation. In July 2016, 1,191 of 1,940 eviction cases filed in Charlotte-Mecklenburg received a judgment to evict. More than 8 in 10 landlords had legal representation in these cases, but 8 in 10 tenants were not even present at the small claims court trial when a judgment was entered for the landlord. To provide legal assistance to residents facing eviction, for the first time, Mecklenburg County allocated $300,000 in funding to Legal Aid of North Carolina in fiscal year 2019.
In addition to lacking legal representation, residents facing eviction often do not know their rights. To address the knowledge gap, Legal Aid of North Carolina worked with the Mecklenburg County clerk to include a fact sheet detailing tenant rights with every eviction notice served.
Currently, when tenants with court eviction filings pay their landlord enough to avoid eviction, the eviction filings still appear on a tenant’s rental history, despite no judgment being entered in court records. Mecklenburg County’s most recent adopted legislative agenda addresses this erroneous recordation.
Other stakeholders took action as well. Residents volunteered to manually enter data for almost 2,000 court files. A group of CEOs in Charlotte sponsored nonprofits to attend eviction prevention trainings. Banks donated their legal staff’s time to represent tenants facing eviction. And local philanthropy continues to keep attention on evictions by convening a community-wide working group on the issue.
In June 2019, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership conferred the G. Thomas Kingsley Impact Award to the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Mecklenburg County for the impact their research and data on evictions have had in Charlotte. The award recognizes a NNIP Partner organization that has demonstrated impact using neighborhood data to improve local policy and practice to benefit low-income communities.
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Mecklenburg County, along with the City of Charlotte, are the Charlotte partners in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a network of local data intermediaries in more than 30 cities, coordinated by the Urban Institute. All of them, like UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Mecklenburg County, are navigators to help their communities use data to inform decisions and advance equity.