What Can We Do About NYC Eviction Rates?

Where are evictions happening? What might be the root cause of evictions, and how can the city help ameliorate eviction rates?

Tribeca remains one of NYC’s richest and most expensive neighborhoods

New York City has the highest cost of living across the United States, and without a doubt, housing prices contribute to that. I myself am from New York and was born and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Raised in a house with my parents and my older sister, I recall asking my mother how we ended up in Brooklyn. She told me that it was either “a house in Brooklyn, or a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.” As I grew older, I increasingly began to realize the great disparities that individuals in New York City face. Part of living in New York is seeing several individuals panhandling on the streets, dancing in the Subway for money, or simply wrapped in blankets at a corner.

Motivation

I decided to delve deeper into these disparities, focusing on the housing crisis, with less affordable housing becoming available each day. I wanted to understand how prevalent are evictions across NYC’s zipcodes and boroughs, and then explore underlying factors that might explain the evictions. To do so, I looked at NYC Open Data on eviction court filings, as well as U.S. Census Bureau data on income, housing conditions, rent prices, and unemployment rates, among other things.

Analysis was conducted in R.

Map of NYC boroughs provided for reference.

Evictions in New York City

First, I wanted to understand the problem at hand. I began by looking at the data containing court filings for evictions across New York City zipcodes.

After filtering the data to focus on 2019 only, I added the “missing” zip odes that had no evictions filed. I then used the choroplethrZip package in order to create a map of evictions filings. I also summarized findings in a chart.

The Bronx has the highest number of evictions, and Brooklyn comes in as a close second.

This visualization indicates the number of evictions filed across each of New York City’s zipcodes. More intense shades of blue indicate a larger number of evictions in that zipcode.

We see that evictions are heavily concentrated in the Bronx and a large portion of Brooklyn. In fact, nearly the entirety of the Bronx is covered in an intense shade of blue. Brooklyn’s high eviction rates span a variety of neighborhoods from Flatbush to Bushwick. We also see smaller pocketed areas of evictions in Manhattan’s East Harlem, as well as parts of Queens. Staten Island’s evictions are most intense by St. George, which happens to be the dock where the Staten Island Ferry takes off to Manhattan each day. Nevertheless, the overall number of evictions in Staten Island pales in comparison to the other boroughs.

Overall filed evictions in NYC since 2017

Analyzing the entirety of the eviction data provided, I calculated and plotted monthly total evictions over time. Despite the serious housing issue in New York City, eviction numbers have been decreasing within the past few years at an accelerated pace. According to an article from the Gothamist, rates dramatically decreased in 2020 after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an eviction moratorium after the pandemic struck in March of that year. The halt in evictions was intended to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Still, evictions levels may rise again as the pandemic calms. Now understanding that evictions are most prevalent in the Bronx, I wanted to delve deeper and explore potential reasons for this.

Exploring Different Factors

Income

I hypothesized that income must contribute to the housing crisis, and was curious what the disparity between those in different boroughs is. I created a map similar to eviction rates and an associated bar graph.

As expected, NYC’s richest are in Manhattan, and the poorest are in the Bronx.

While I knew that Manhattan was the richest borough, I had no idea by how much. This visualization makes it clear the stark disparity between NYC’s richest and poorest neighborhoods, with the entirety of the Bronx in the lowest income bracket. The median income in Manhattan is over double that of the Bronx. Staten Island follows shortly behind, which makes sense given that many Staten Islanders actually commute to work in Manhattan each day.

Moreover, if we put the two maps side by side, it looks as if the two maps are inverted versions of one another:

Side by side, Eviction levels directly contrast Income levels in nearly every zipcode.

Housing Prices

This visualization graphs the average monthly rental price across each of the 5 boroughs. Manhattan has the greatest number of expensive rentals ($2000+/month) by far, comprising 40% of overall properties. Across the other boroughs, the majority of housing falls into the $1000-$1499/month rental price.

It’s interesting to note that the Bronx and Staten Island have similar rental distributions despite the large difference in both evictions as well as income. One explanation for this is that Staten Island comprises mostly of owned homes rather than rental properties. Furthermore, there is less demand for housing in Staten Island given its far distance from the city.

It’s also interesting that although those in the Bronx have the lowest income and have the lowest rental prices, they still have the highest eviction rates.

Housing Conditions

Note: Data used is from 2017 which is the most recently available data on housing conditions.

This data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Housing and Vacancy Survey. Respondents were asked to rate the physical condition of residential structures in their neighborhood, on a scale from “excellent, good, fair, or poor.”

Note that the percentage of rental properties in the Bronx with these conditions nearly doubles that of Brooklyn. With so many evictions and the poor living conditions, many individuals must live in the Bronx out of necessity due to their low income.

Economic Conditions

The Bronx’s unemployment is significantly higher than other boroughs.

With the low median income in the Bronx, I wanted to explore economic conditions using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bronx has an extremely high unemployment of 9.1% relative to the city-wide average of 5.2%. However, I decided to look beyond the unemployment rate and at the labor force participation rate.

Labor Force participation rate is lowest in the Bronx.

Despite the Bronx’s high employment rate, this graph demonstrates how the Bronx also has the lowest Labor Force Participation Rate of 59.2% compared to Manhattan’s 68.2%. This rate represents the proportion of those eligible to work who are currently working or actively seeking unemployment. Thus, not only are many individuals from the Bronx unemployed, but also many of them have given up or are not seeking employment at all.

Educational Attainment

Finally, I looked at educational attainment across boroughs. As expected, Manhattan had the highest proportion of higher education, with over 62% having attained a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The Bronx had the highest proportion of individuals with educational attainment less than a high school degree at 25.6%.

Takeaways

It’s difficult to assess correlation vs. causation in these examples, but one thing is clear — there is a larger disparity between the boroughs than first meets the eye. This disparity transcends eviction, seeping into several areas of their lives from income to educational attainment. By far, the Bronx has the highest eviction rates and faces the greatest disparities.

Based on this analysis, an important takeaway is that not only do those in the Bronx face higher unemployment, but they also simply have a lower willingness to seek unemployment. The city should channel funds to create empowerment programs and effectively create jobs for individuals in these neighborhoods. Individuals may have lost motivation to seek a job, likely faced with a stream of rejections given their lower educational attainment. The city must motivate these individuals to continue to try to find work.

Additionally, the city can improve education in these areas. Reducing dropout rates will encourage students to pursue higher education and thereby likely improve unemployment rates. Individuals may even feel empowered and give back to their hometown communities in the future, helping to further lessen the wealth inequality gap.

Further Analysis

Further research would incorporate data on the ethnic demographics of neighborhoods and the change in real estate prices over time. I would’ve also liked to explore the effect of household size, single-parent versus two-parent households, and the distribution of professions of those in different zipcodes. I’d also be interested in further exploring current city initiatives to decrease the number of evictions and the housing crisis at large.

Appendix

I explored other factors like foreign-born population, English proficiency, and access to Internet, but did not find particularly interesting results that further developed the story.

Queens has the greatest foreign-born population.
The Bronx and Queens have the greatest proportion of households with limited English proficiency.
The Bronx is the most technologically disconnected, with 18.6% of households lacking any sort of internet access.

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