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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

The Tampa Bay area defies a national uptick in suburban evictions

Vyacheslav Dumchev/Getty Images
The notice of eviction of tenants hangs on the door of the house.

In Tampa and St. Petersburg, evictions are continually concentrated in the urban core, according to data analyzed between 2000 and 2016.

Tampa is bucking a national trend of “suburbanization of eviction," according to a report published in February.

Historically, the largest share of evictions in U.S. cities has taken place in a small subset of inner-city neighborhoods. But in recent decades, surging housing costs and growing rent burdens have extended the threat of evictions into suburban neighborhoods, according to the report.

“Over the last few decades, really from about 1990 onwards, there's been this big change … where the majority of poor American households now live in the suburbs – not in cities,” co-author Peter Hepburn said.

Hepburn, who is also the associate director of the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, published the report alongside Ph.D. candidate Devin Rutan and award-winning non-fiction author Matthew Desmond.

Together, they analyzed more than 5 million eviction case filings from dozens of U.S. cities to discover how the geographic landscape of eviction is changing in the U.S.

Their analysis found a significant increase in eviction judgments over time for the typical suburban neighborhood, according to court case data compiled from 74 metro areas between 2000 and 2016.

Eviction rates increased in 59 of the 74 metro areas studied.

Tampa wasn’t among them.

“In Tampa, there was a very small shift in the other direction,” Hepburn said.

Screenshot of suburban share of evictions.jpg
Screenshot of report "The Suburbanization of Eviction"
The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences
The suburban share of evictions for the Tampa metro decreased between 2000 and 2016. Tampa was one of three cities that served as case studies for this report along side Cleveland, Ohio, and Seattle, Washington. In tis report, "evictions" were measured by final judgment not initial court filings. The report also borrowed definitions from the U.S. Census Bureau to categorize "urban" and "surburban" spaces.

Tampa’s resistance to the suburbanization of eviction makes it an outlier.

Hepburn credits this to the large number of suburban evictions the Tampa metro saw in the early 2000s.

While the rate of suburban evictions is not growing compared to other U.S. cities, Hepburn explains that the latest data shows nearly two-thirds of all evictions in the Tampa metro still affect suburban tenants.

One explanation by researchers is that suburban neighborhoods are getting poorer.

This shift can be driven by low-income households moving farther away from the city. They are being drawn by naturally occurring affordable housing and low-wage work that’s becoming more available in suburban spaces, according to the report.

Hepburn said this shift can create pockets of eviction hotspots next-door to neighborhoods with low-to-no eviction risk.

Research shows that a small subset of landlords in U.S. cities account for a disproportionate number of evictions.

In Tampa and St. Petersburg, evictions are concentrated in only a handful of neighborhoods: South St. Petersburg, University Square, Temple Terrace and East Lake-Orient Park.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.