FHC Reads Evicted by Matthew Desmond


Please join the Fair Housing Center to discuss the book that is changing the national conversation around poverty and eviction. We will be meeting in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor during April, Fair Housing Month.

April 19th – 6 PM
Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery
720 Norris Street, Ypsilanti

April 21st – 12 PM (brown bag lunch)
Ann Arbor District Library
343 South Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor
Lower level, multi-purpose room

Receive a 15% discount on EVICTED at Literati Bookstore when you mention the FHC Book group. 124 E. Washington, Ann Arbor, www.literatibookstore.com

“I’ve come to believe that decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country,” says Desmond. “Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”

Read more about EVICTED:

Evicted is a striking account of a severe and rapidly developing form of economic hardship in the U.S. Matthew Desmond’s riveting narrative of the experiences of families in Milwaukee embroiled in the process of eviction will not only shock general readers, but it will broaden the perspective of experts on urban poverty as well.

This powerful, well-written book also includes revealing portraits of profit-seeking landlords, as well as important findings from comprehensive surveys to back up the ethnographic research. Evicted is that rare book that both enlightens and serves as an urgent call for action.”

—William Julius Wilson,
Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University,
and author of When Work Disappears

The book is  EVICTED: POVERTY AND PROFIT IN THE AMERICAN CITY – written by Harvard sociologist and 2015 MacArthur “Genius” grant winner Matthew Desmond – and it is a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America.  In the same way that William Julius Wilson’s When Work Disappears brought to light the problem of joblessness in the inner city and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow introduced readers to the relationship between race, poverty, and the criminal justice system, EVICTED changes how we think about poverty by plumbing the dynamics of the private rental market, where most poor Americans live, and describing the causes and consequences of the high costs of housing.  Recognizing the central role of housing in the lives of the urban poor helps us see more clearly the root causes of their poverty and instability—and this points toward a way out.

Today poor families are facing one of the worst affordable housing crises in generations.  It may be the worst since the Great Depression or even since the Panic of 1837.  It may be the worst ever.  Millions of low-income Americans are evicted every year.   In Milwaukee, a city of fewer than 105,000 renter households—and the setting of this book—the most recent move for almost one in eight renters is involuntary. And while most of us spend about 30 percent of our income on housing, today the majority of poor renting families devote at least 50 percent of their income to rent and utilities, and more than a quarter devote over 70 percent. The problem of affordable housing has become so entrenched in our low-income communities that eviction, instead of being rare, has become ordinary—especially for women and children. “In poor black neighborhoods, what incarceration is to men, eviction is to women: a common yet consequential event that pushes families deeper below the poverty line,” Desmond says. “Poor black men are locked up; poor black women are locked out.”


To research EVICTED, Desmond embedded himself in Milwaukee for over a year, living with his subjects in a white, hardscrabble trailer park and then a rooming house in the black inner city. He sat beside tenants in eviction court, helped them move, followed them into shelters and abandoned houses, babysat their children, argued and attended church with them, went to funerals with them. And he got just as close to the landlords, following them as they collected rent, dealt with inspectors visits and practiced random acts of kindness.  In time, Desmond became so fascinated by issues of eviction that he set out to expand his project by gathering a variety of data about eviction in the U.S. More than a thousand renters were asked questions about housing conditions, evictions, and rents. Desmond himself analyzed hundreds of thousands of court-ordered evictions, millions of police call logs, and numerous public property records, school files, and psychological evaluations; he also surveyed hundreds of landlords to calculate their profit margins. The result is the most comprehensive, detailed data on American urban poverty, housing, and eviction in existence.


His research and ideas about housing policy are already making an impact:

Book website: www.EvictedBook.com

JustShelter.org: A new website, launched by Matthew Desmond, for people to find out how they can help people facing eviction, or get help for themselves, or share their own eviction story.

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