Professor Eva Rosen (MSPP) on the Importance of Innovative Research to Address the Housing ‘Crisis’

By Shelby Gresch, SFS'22
February 26, 2021

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a year has passed since students gathered in the Red House for the last Red House Dinner Series event. After a semester of settling into the virtual environment, however, programming resumed this past Thursday as we welcomed Professor Eva Rosen of the McCourt School of Public Policy to our first-ever Virtual Dinner Series. Professor Rosen had actually been part of the RHDS line-up for Spring 2020 that was cancelled at the onset of the pandemic last year, so we were thrilled to have another opportunity to host a student-driven conversation about her work.

Professor Rosen developed an interest in urban studies at a young age. During her time at Barnard College in New York City, she discovered sociology as a potential lens through which to view urban issues and went on to study sociology at Harvard University. She quickly came to appreciate the unique combination of qualitative and quantitative research employed by social scientists as she progressed through her graduate and doctoral degrees. This emerged as a theme of Thursday’s conversation as students wondered about Rosen’s housing research here in D.C. and Baltimore. 

How does one tell the whole story of an eviction? How do you keep someone’s hardship from becoming just a statistic in a study? These questions are something that Professor Rosen grapples with every day, and that have been integral to her work over the years. 

Most recently, Professor Rosen has been working with a colleague in the Sociology Department, Professor Brian McCabe, on a study addressing the racialized geography of evictions in D.C. Using both statistical and qualitative data, they found that more often than not, evictions are used by landlords as a rent-collection tool rather than to evict, and that this poses considerable challenges for equitable housing policies. However, their report also offers a handful of recommendations about how policy-makers can improve housing policy and eviction laws, and it’s gotten the attention of the D.C. City Council.

Still, according to Rosen, we have a long way to go. As the evening went on, Rosen explained that what is most commonly referred to as the ‘affordable housing crisis,’ is really not a crisis at all. ‘Crisis’ implies a new and imminent problem, but the truth is that the United States has had a housing problem for a long time. Addressing such a long-standing problem will require the innovative and empathetic research of people like Professor Eva Rosen, who also inspires students to do the same.

Stay tuned for more Dinner Series to come! Students can join the Red House Student Network listserv here to be the first to receive information about signups and stay up to date about all upcoming Red House events. You can also visit our Facebook page for event updates from the Red House.

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