The story of local real estate and housing is a tale of two Ulster counties: on one hand, the median home sale price increased from $200,000 in 2016 to $218,000 in 2018, there are over 1,800 Airbnbs that can generate up to three times as much income as a standard rental, and market rate housing projects like the Kingstonian and Zero Place, on the way.
On the other hand, there were the most evictions ever recorded in Ulster County last year. And the number is only seeming to increase. Renters are bearing the brunt of a booming real estate and luxury tourism market; median rents have increased by 50% in Ulster County since 2002, while the median wage has actually decreased slightly. In 2017, 6,251 Ulster County families gave the majority of their income to their landlords.
Enter the Kingston Tenants Union: a newly formed grassroots organization that is dedicated to organizing and mobilizing renters and allies who believe that housing is a human right. Renters make up 50% of the households in communities like Kingston, New Paltz and Ellenville, and 30% of the households in Ulster County as a whole.
The Kingston Tenants Union stands in solidarity with the statewide Housing Justice for All movement, which seeks to provide Universal Rent Control to protect every tenant in New York State when the current rent laws expire in June. We also are democratically advocating for local protections, allying with homeowners and good landlords who want to make it less profitable to be an absentee landlord or slumlord.
Today, we’re publishing never-before-compiled data on evictions in Ulster County. Tracking evictions year-to-year is an important signal of the affordable housing market, an indicator of gentrification, and a check on how community supports are functioning. It also harms tenants and plunges them into a cycle of poverty. The founder of Eviction Lab, sociologist Matthew Desmond, explains:
“Eviction isn’t just a condition of poverty; it’s a cause of poverty. Eviction is a direct cause of homelessness, but it is also a cause of residential instability, school instability and community instability.”
These statistics were compiled from documents published on Kingston Landlord Support, an anonymously-run blacklist that lists the tenant (but not the landlord) in every eviction completed in Ulster County, for any reason, since 2007. The site now has over 6,200 names on it, and there’s no way to get a name removed, and when an evictee’s name is Googled, they come up on the list, making it harder for them to get new employment or a new apartment, even years later.
According to the website, the information is published with the cooperation of the Ulster County Courts, the Kingston Fire Department, the Kingston Building & Safety Division and the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office.
Here are some things that jumped out at us after analyzing the statistics:
2019: With two months of data, Ulster County is pace for 780 evictions, an increase of 15% since last year.
Evictions in Ulster County Reached an All-Time High in 2018:
430 in 2013; 534 in 2014; 514 in 2015; 475 in 2016; 547 in 2017; 676 in 2018
Even though home values are up and unemployment is down in Kingston, there were as many evictions in 2018 as there were at the height of the financial crisis.
Evictions in Kingston Matched the Height of the Financial Crisis:
210 in 2010; 139 in 2011; 133 in 2012; 150 in 2013; 190 in 2014; 157 in 2015; 127 in 2016; 160 in 2017; 210 in 2018
Evictions aren’t just a city problem; tenants in some of the smallest towns in Ulster County are being affected too. Universal Rent Control means protection for every tenant in New York State.
Smaller Towns Are Also Seeing Jumps in Evictions
Ellenville: 23 in 2015; 39 in 2016; 58 in 2017; 72 in 2018
New Paltz: 21 in 2017; 40 in 2018
Wallkill: 18 in 2016; 31 in 2017; 42 in 2018
Highland: 42 in 2017; 79 in 2018
Kerhonkson: 12 in 2017; 25 in 2018
Marlboro: 10 in 2016; 18 in 2017; 20 in 2018
Want to get involved?
If you’re a renter or ally in Kingston or the surrounding area, join the conversation in our Facebook group.
Sign the pledge to fight for Universal Rent Control in New York State.