Housing Is A Human Right Eviction Lab Deaths rent

Unaffordable Rents Linked to More Deaths, Says Eviction Lab

In News by Patrick Range McDonald

Over the years, Housing Is A Human Right has routinely said that the housing affordability crisis is a public health issue. Now Eviction Lab, the highly regarded research institute at Princeton University, has found that increasingly unaffordable rents across the country are linked with higher mortality rates. The study shows the urgent need to use rent control as a life-saving tool.

In a recent newsletter, Eviction Lab reported two key findings from a study that was undertaken in collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau. First, the high cost of housing increases the risk of dying earlier for renters. “Someone paying half or more of their income towards rents was nine percent more likely to die over the next 20 years compared with someone paying a third of their income towards rent,” Eviction Lab wrote. “Meanwhile, someone paying 70 percent of their income toward rent was 12 percent more likely to die.”

It’s disturbing news, especially in California, where more than half of renter households are rent burdened, spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent. No state in the country has more rent-burdened tenants, the OC Register recently found. 

Second, Eviction Lab noted that “simply being threatened with an eviction – even when the case does not result in an eviction judgment – was associated with a 19 percent increase in mortality. Receiving an eviction judgment – when the judge rules in favor of the landlord – was associated with a 40 percent increase in the risk of death.”

Again, stark numbers. 

The alarming findings show that the housing affordability crisis is not only a public health issue, but also a life-threatening humanitarian crisis. Yet the real estate industry continues to push a self-serving “trickle-down housing” agenda – build more luxury apartments for a housing affordability crisis – that doesn’t swiftly and directly address the plight of rent-burdened Californians.

Academics and economists, though, have found that rent control is a key tool to stabilize the housing affordability crisis, which will clearly save lives. Top academics at the University of Southern California and UC Berkeley came to that conclusion, and so did a group of prominent economists, who recently sent a pro-rent control letter to the Biden administration.

This life-or-death situation is a major reason why activists, labor unions, and civic leaders have supported the repeal or reform of statewide rent control restrictions in California through a ballot measure – state politicians have continually refused to act, leaving activists no choice but to use the initiative process.

In 2024, with politicians still unwilling to take action, a broad coalition of housing justice groups, social justice organizations, labor unions, and civic leaders are working to pass the Justice for Renters Act. The November ballot measure, which is sponsored by Housing Is A Human Right and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, will repeal statewide rent control restrictions and allow cities to expand rent regulations.

Already, corporate landlords and their front group, the California Apartment Association, are sneakily raising millions to kill the initiative so they can keep making outsized profits by charging excessive, unfair rents. Activists expect Big Real Estate to roll out a massive misinformation campaign to trick and confuse voters, which will include their trickle-down housing argument. 

Californians, though, can reject Big Real Estate’s self-serving lies by voting “yes” for the Justice for Renters Act in November. People’s lives hang in the balance.

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