By Sam Carnes, Queens University News Service
Evictions in Mecklenburg County have returned to pre-pandemic levels and are now averaging 2,500 per month, a rate that keeps Charlotte among the nation’s top cities for evictions, say attorneys with legal aid organizations that represent tenants.
The most recent data from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts indicates a level of 30,000 eviction cases annually, said Isaac Sturgill, an attorney specializing in housing with Legal Aid of North Carolina. The Eviction Lab, a project of Princeton University, ranks Charlotte sixth in the nation for evictions. A 2017 UNC Charlotte Urban Institute report indicated that 28,471 eviction complaints were filed in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
These rates have human consequences, said Toussaint Romain, who recently became chief executive officer for the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Romain recalls visiting Charlotte’s tent city of homeless people in August 2020.
“We really saw whole families, like a mom and a dad and three babies who were living in a tent for the first time in their lives,” Romain said. “They were there because they worked in the service industry. And when COVID happened, shut all that down, and they were kicked out of their places because of not paying rent. … and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 2-year-old baby, you know, that was homeless.”
Sturgill and Romain are two of dozens of attorneys who represent people experiencing the worst consequences of the rising cost of housing in Mecklenburg County. Without a course correction in the cost of housing, these lawyers say, Charlotte risks becoming a city like San Francisco.
“Charlotte is on track to be a city for white-collar professionals that make a certain income, [with] an underclass of people who serve the professional class,” said Ismaail Qaiyim, who founded the Queen City Community Law Firm and works with the Housing Justice Coalition CLT and the Latin American Coalition.Read more: Charlotte Journalism Collaborative