A stable place to call home is one of the best predictors of success. Yet, each year more than 2.4 million Americans, most of them low-income renters, face eviction. While it used to be rare even in the poorest neighborhoods, forcible removal has become ordinary, with families facing eviction from the most squalid, barely inhabitable apartments.
This phenomenon exposes not only income inequality in America, but also the growing separation between the built environments of the rich and the poor.
The National Building Museum announces a new, ground-breaking exhibition exploring the causes and impacts of eviction.
A collaboration with Matthew Desmond, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and best-selling author, Evicted will offer an immersive experience bringing our visitors into the world of low-income renter eviction. With unique design elements and striking graphics, the exhibition will challenge adults and youth to face the enormity of a difficult subject, while providing context and a call to action.
Eviction occurs when renters are forcibly removed from their home by court order. Evictions and the threat of removal are disproportionately experienced by African American single mothers in many cities, but affect people of all backgrounds. An eviction record can mean that a family is now ineligible for other subsidies such as public housing. It can make job-hunting more difficult, if not nearly impossible. Finding a new place to live becomes almost a full-time job, especially in a sprawling metropolitan area without a car.
Housing instability threatens all aspects of family life: health, jobs, school, and personal relationships. Landlords hesitate to rent to those with eviction records, or charge them extra money, causing a devastating negative feedback loop. Children switch schools too often to make friends or be noticed and helped by teachers; neighbors cannot develop bonds; personal belongings are left in storage or out on the street. Americans often take home for granted—homes forms the building blocks of community life—and this stability is under attack when eviction looms.
The exhibition will employ a rich array of images and audio interviews. Specially commissioned visual infographics and forward-thinking design will introduce visitors to the numbers and statistics they need to know in order to understand the crisis. Rates of evictions in different markets will make evident the depths of the problem. Working together, these elements amplify the stories of tenant families, as they explain in their own words and images the impact eviction has on them and their loved ones.
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