Low-income women of color are “particularly burdened” by gentrification in Durham, according to a new report by UNC-Chapel Hill students.
The public policy students are UNC Capstone Fellows who have been working with WomenNC as part of the NC Coalition for CEDAW, which refers to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The student researchers, who presented their report to the Durham City Council last week, found that rising rents in Durham were taking a particular toll on women of color, who are often single mothers and renters.
They connected their findings to institutionalized racism throughout Durham’s historyvia programs such as redlining and urban renewal, which razed black neighborhoods to make way for N.C. 147that have laid the foundation for an uneven economic landscape today.
“The damaging combination of societal gender-based discrimination and Durham County’s particular history of systemic racism have contributed to disproportionately negative impacts on low-income women of color seeking affordable housing,” the report says.
According to the research, nearly half of Durham County households rent, which means the 13 percent increase in median rents between 2010 and 2015 could have affected more than fifty thousand households. The researchers also found that about 20 percent of renting Durham households are headed by single mothers, and the vast majority of those single mothers are women of color. About 60 percent of Durham families headed by a single mother are living below the poverty level.
These women are at the “intersections of marginalization,” student Allory Bors told the council.
Because of wage and wealth disparities that disproportionately harm women of color, rent increases present a particular hardship for these single-parent renter households. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, North Carolina women are paid eighty-six cents for every dollar a man makes; for black women, fifty-four cents; for Latinas, forty-eight cents.
Research has shown that women of color are at the highest risk for eviction. That’s in line with what Durham Human Relations Commission members observed when they sat in on eviction court for six days in December: more than half of the tenants who appeared in court those days were black women.
Diane Standaert, who chairs the HRC, asked the council Thursday to consider funding an Eviction Diversion Program started by Legal Aid, Duke’s Civil Justice Clinic, and the Durham County Department of Social Services to try to head off the approximately nine hundred eviction cases filed each month in Durham County. Since it began in August, the program has handled fifty-eight cases in court and avoided evictions in 79 percent of them. In 66 percent of cases, tenants were able to avoid moving out of their home.
The HRC is seeking city, county, and public funding to hire more lawyers for the program and provide emergency rental assistance to tenants facing eviction.
The students’ report makes four recommendations to improve affordable housing access for women of color: increase the stock of affordable housing in Durham; improve equitable access to housing via support services and tenant protection policies; bring people affected by gentrification into the decision-making process; and collect more data on the gendered effects of gentrification.