Southeast Wisconsin has highest eviction rates in state; 3.3 percent in Milwaukee County

MADISON — Research shows that Wisconsin's southeastern counties have the highest eviction rates in the state.

Princeton University researchers with the Eviction Lab collected court records about evictions across the U.S. between 2000 and 2016, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Racine County had an eviction rate of nearly 3.9 percent in 2016, with almost 940 households, the study found. Kenosha County had an almost 3.5 percent rate, with about 750 households, while Milwaukee County had a rate of about 3.3 percent, which is more than 6,300 households.

The national rate is about 2.3 percent.

Evictions aren't limited to big cities, said Adam Porton, a researcher with the lab.

"It challenges the narrative that many of us have about housing and poverty, and that it's concentrated only in large urban areas and that displacement is only a problem in these booming markets," Porton said.

The data may be understated since many evictions happen outside of courts, Porton said.

Don Tolbert is with the Eviction Defense Project in Milwaukee County, which provides free legal services for tenants facing eviction. Most of the families the organization helps are struggling with poverty, he said.

"When you're spending 50 to 60 percent of your monthly income on rent just to keep a roof over your head, it doesn't take much to have the house of cards come falling down," Tolbert said.

Simply having a notice filed against you can make it more expensive to rent in the future, which furthers the "spiral of poverty," he said.

"You're also going to probably end up in a lower-quality rental unit because the higher-quality rental units simply won't rent to you because you have an eviction," said Tolbert said.

Many people who seek eviction assistance are low-income, single parents, said Nicole Laycock, an operation supervisor of Wisconsin Works in Racine County.

"Individuals that can't sustain the employment due to lack of transportation, lack of child care, lack of resource knowledge," Laycock said.

More than 900,000 families were evicted from their homes across the country in 2016, according to the lab's data.