WFDD Investigative Collaboration ‘On The Margins’ Tackles The Triad’s Housing Crisis

Jul 2, 2019

As of 2016, Greensboro and Winston-Salem had the highest rates of evictions in all of North Carolina. 

A yearlong collaborative reporting project dove into the topic: exploring how evictions create a ripple effect in people’s lives, the role the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem plays in evictions there and a look at one redlined community in Greensboro. 

The team included reporters from public radio station WFDD, the Carolina Data Desk at UNC’s School of Media and Journalism and Wake Forest University’s journalism students. Reporters from WFDD took a two-day data journalism workshop and got extra training and mentorship from independent journalist and former News and Observer investigative reporter Mandy Locke. The result is “On The Margins,” a one-hour audio documentary including three investigations into the Triad’s housing problems.

Host Frank Stasio learns about this project and the reporting it produced from Locke; WFDD reporter, producer and audio engineer Eddie Garcia; and WFDD reporter and producer Bethany Chafin. “On The Margins” and its related investigative pieces can be found on the WFDD website.

Since 2014, half of the renters in the Triad have faced the threat of eviction. - Mandy Locke

Interview Highlights

Locke on the impact of an eviction:

What we came to learn through our reporting is that the effects of eviction linger for years and years and years. And the reason is that that eviction is on your record. So every single time you are seeking new housing, a potential landlord is going to see that, and they're going to see it as a red flag. And so some of the people we talked to described it as this stain — this tattoo, this mark that you can't get off of you — that puts you into this subclass of renters forevermore.

Garcia on Larry Woods, the CEO of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem:

He calls his philosophy “the self reliance model.” A quote he likes to use a lot is: Give a man a fish, he’ll feed himself for a day. Teach him how to fish, he'll feed he and his family for life. Mandy and I interviewed him for about two-and-a-half hours, and he must have said that phrase at least five times — maybe more. So really, his thinking is that: We're a business. We're preparing people for what it's really like out there.

I think the days of competitive journalism have left us. We have got to share toys in the sandbox. We've got to come together and bring what resources we can to deliver the kind of journalism that our communities deserve. - Mandy Locke

Chafin on the legacy of redlining maps on Ole Asheboro:

These maps were drawn to show an assessment of lending risk in communities. The problem is that they were drawn in many ways along racial lines. And so Ole Asheboro — this neighborhood had been drawn and colored both yellow and red, meaning that this was deemed a declining area and that it was a high risk area to lend in. So you have a history of disinvestment in this community. You also have a very layered history as well happening beyond those redlining maps. But certainly you have the legacy of less infusion of funds into this neighborhood. So perhaps it wasn't growing like some areas around it.

Locke on the big takeaway from this project:

I learned that when you can give a little bit of extra resources to a newsroom that is hungry and eager and capable of doing more, then we are able to produce the kind of journalism that our audience and our communities deserve. And so I think this kind of collaboration teaches us that we really need to be joining forces more, lifting each other and playing nicely for the benefit of our communities.