low income renters


Terrell Walker lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, D.C., with her 9-year-old and 2-year-old daughters.

Walker stopped paying her rent last September because, she says, her apartment is in horrible condition — and she is fighting her landlord’s eviction threat in court.

But when tenants don’t pay, landlords say they have less money to fix things up.

It is a vicious cycle that can often land the parties in court, and it’s a scene that has become common around the country. The lack of affordable housing is forcing low-income renters to choose between apartments they can’t afford or those that aren’t in the best shape.

Low-Income Renters Squeezed Between Too-High Rents And Subpar Housing

Photos: Brandon Chew/NPR and Pam Fessler/NPR

Welcome To Rent Court, Where Tenants Can Face A Tenuous Fate
The Landlord and Tenant Branch of Superior Court for the District of Columbia is where you can end up if you're poor, black and on the verge of being evicted.

Today, more than 11 million families spend over half of their incomes on rent, and for the poor, it can be as much as 80 percent. That means millions of Americans face the threat of eviction, or they live in substandard housing because it’s all they can afford. NPR’s Pam Fessler has been spending time at the rent court in Washington, D.C., where the struggle between low-income renters and landlords over affordable housing often comes to a head.