Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Plague of Urban Evictions

New Yorker reports on evictions of poor renters in Milwaukee. The numbers are shocking.

By - Feb 9th, 2016 11:08 am
Notice of Eviction

Notice of Eviction

Harvard Professor Matthew Desmond was a doctoral student in sociology at UW-Madison when he became interested in studying the issue of evictions in poor neighborhoods. “He spent four months in 2008 living in a trailer park on Milwaukee’s south side, a poor, predominantly white neighborhood near the airport, and nine months living in a rooming house in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood on the city’s north side,” as a story in Harvard Magazine recounts.

He found that evictions were a huge problem, beyond what any research on poverty had ever imagined. Analyzing court records, Desmond found that in this city’s majority-black neighborhoods, one in 14 renting households is evicted each year.

But after living for more than a year in Milwaukee, he learned that many evictions happen informally: landlords may pay cash to convince renters to leave (it’s cheaper than paying the legal cost for evictions), may cut off a tenant’s electricity or even remove the front door of a rental unit so it will be condemned and the tenant forced to move out. His survey of local renters found that one in eight Milwaukee renters was the victim of an eviction or other involuntary relocation each year, but it was one in seven for black renters, and one in four for Hispanic renters.

During the last 16 years, Desmond found, median rent nationwide has increased more than 70 percent, after adjusting for inflation. In Milwaukee, he found the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose from $585 in 1997 to $795 in 2004, while monthly welfare payments did not rise at all, and minimum wage increases did not keep pace with inflation.

The standard rule of thumb for affordable housing is you shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of your income on the rent or mortgage payment. But a study by the Urban Institute found that for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in the country, there are only 29 affordable rental units available.

Desmond found poor tenants in Milwaukee spending as much as 88 percent of their income on housing. “The average cost of rent, even in high-poverty neighborhoods, is quickly approaching the total income of welfare recipients,” Desmond has written. “The high cost of housing is consigning the urban poor to financial ruin.”

The appalling story he’s uncovered has led to a book he will publish next month, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. And it also led to a feature story he wrote in the most recent New Yorker, “Letter from Milwaukee: Forced Out.” Once again, Milwaukee, one of the nation’s poorest cities, is America’s poster child for the manifest miseries associated with poverty.

Whereas evictions were once a noteworthy event in an urban neighborhood, Desmond writes, nowadays, “evictions are too commonplace to attract attention. There are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders. Some moving companies specialize in evictions, their crews working all day long, five days a week. Hundreds of data-mining companies sell landlords tenant-screening reports that list past evictions and court filings.”

Of Milwaukee’s 105,000 renter households, Desmond found, landlords legally evict about 16,000 adults and children each year. But the number is nearly double that when you take into account informal evictions.

“Women from black neighborhoods made up less than ten per cent of Milwaukee’s population but nearly a third of its evicted tenants,” Desmond writes. “If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

And typically they were mothers of children. In court cases, tenants living with children were almost three times more likely to be evicted than those without children, Desmond noted in a 2014 story by the New York Times.

The impact on these families can be profound. “You would think that eviction is caused by job loss, but we found evidence that eviction can actually cause you to lose your job,” Desmond told the Times. “We also found evidence that people that are evicted, even years later, have higher rates of depression and higher rates of material hardship.” The latter can include hunger or lack of medical care, he noted. “We are learning,” Desmond told the Harvard Review “that eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.”

The disruption that evictions and constant moving cause on children can be imagined. Back in 2010 a report found that 32 percent of Milwaukee Public School children moved during a school year, which may cause them to switch to a school in a different neighborhood. Moving was a negative factor in student achievement, a 2013 study found.

The Times speculated that the rise in evictions might be explained by a shortage of rental housing caused by a lack of new construction during the recession and the wave of foreclosures that turned homeowners into renters. But Desmond’s data suggests the problem has probably been building for decades, as the cost of housing rose year by year, and the income of poor people — poor mothers in particular — did not keep pace.

In short, its a huge problem that predates the current state leadership, but it’s fair to say the actions taken by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature have not helped things. They’ve opposed an increase in the minimum wage, which could make a huge difference for low-income workers. Meanwhile, Walker’s cuts in the Homestead Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit resulted in a loss of money for low-income individuals and families. The Republican-controlled legislature also made it easier to evict people through “a series of bills, barring cities from enforcing statutes that required landlords to give tenants a reason for declining to renew a lease or to assess an apartment applicant’s ability to pay based on history rather than income,” the Times reported.

The New Yorker’s heart-breaking story concentrates on one mother and her children, and how they go through repeated evictions for lack of money, and moving their paltry stock of possessions by hand: “To avoid embarrassment, Arleen and the boys walked their things over to the new place at night, pushing the larger items, like the sun-faded floral-print love seat, on top of a wheeled garbage can.” For people like that, every dollar counts, and the smallest loss of family income can be an earthquake.

45 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Plague of Urban Evictions”

  1. Penrod says:

    I’m curious: Is evicting quiet, well-behaved, paying tenants a new form of landlord recreation?

    Or are there just a ton more noisy, destructive, drug addicted, deadbeat tenants than there used to be?

    I have a lot of trouble believing that landlords want to evict poor innocent tenants who pay the rent on time and don’t make troubles for the neighbors and the landlords. What’s the upside for the landlords? Empty units don’t produce income.

    I rented in Milwaukee for nearly twenty years -1986-2005- and know of only two evictions in either c.30 unit building I lived in. Both were drug dealers -one my next door neighbor, the other across the hall. The couple across the hall liked to smoke crack, fight late at night, throwing each other and furniture into walls, and finally decided to mask the smell of crack by lighting incense in the clothes closet -which caught fire.

    After calling the fire department well after midnight, they suddenly realized that they were stark naked in the living room with drugs and drug paraphernalia all over the room, and wouldn’t let the FD guys in. That did not go over well with either the FD, the building manager, landlord, or we neighbors.

    Oh, yeah: a third eviction. Another next door couple who for whatever reason liked to throw over furniture and slam each other into walls at 2:00 AM. On the other side of my bedroom wall. Some of us had jobs: we had to get up and go to work in the morning

    I am supposed to feel the least bit like THEY were VICTIMS of eviction? You have to be kidding me. The landlords, the other neighbors, and I were the victims, Bruce.

    If people like those have a tough time finding housing, that is a good thing. If landlords network to reduce the likelihood of subjecting their good tenants to such people, that is a good thing. If seriously disfunctional people find out that seriously disfunctional behavior has seriously bad consequences for themselves, that is a good thing.

    If we declare such bad actors to be victims worthy of our respect and our subsidies, we are going to get ever more bad behavior. Guess what? We have been doing so for half a century, and bad behavior has skyrocketed. These aren’t victims: They are the victimizers. I have no sympathy for them or for their enablers.

  2. Penrod says:

    From the New Yorker article:

    “In the seventh and eighth grades, Jori had attended five schools; when the family was homeless he often skipped class to help Arleen look for a new place.”

    Let’s re-spin this a tad: Despite knowing that to have any hope of getting out of lifelong poverty required getting an education, Arleen routinely allowed Jori to skip school, instilling a life-long handicap and habits which would haunt him forever.”

    Yeah, I’m real sympathetic to that. Let’s set another kid on the path to welfare addiction, because it’s just another life style choice, and we need to respect that.

    “Two decades ago, when she was nineteen, she had rented a subsidized apartment…But, when a friend asked Arleen to give up her place…she decided to say yes, walking away from the subsidized apartment…“And I regret it, right now to this day. Young!” She shook her head at her nineteen-year-old self. “If I would’ve been in my right mind, I could have still been there.””

    Ah, yes: If only she had been wiser, she could be living better to this very day at other people’s expense. Wow: short term thinking had real consequences: She missed out on being a life long housing moocher. What a missed opportunity.

    “She would have been ashamed of herself if she hadn’t pitched in. She split her welfare check between Sherrena and New Pitts Mortuary.”

    Of course, she wasn’t ashamed of stiffing the landlord who had gone out of her way to help, from day one. Noooooo. I hope that funeral had exactly zero frills.

    Come on, Bruce, tell us why we shouldn’t be sympathetic for the evil, grasping, capitalist, landlords, and why we should continue to enable Arleen’s self-destroying lifestyle of dependency which is on the way to destroying her children’s lives as well.

  3. Judith ann moriarty says:

    the problems are not solvable, or are they? do gooders will throw more and more money at the problem, and the problem will continue..

  4. matt says:

    Penrod seems like he should not be chastising other people’s mothering skills, when he is exhibit 1 for the case against his mother. But it’s interesting that he has lived so close to so many dope dealers. So maybe that is the excuse for the addled reasoning and seemingly manufactured facts.

  5. BT says:

    Wow, I must’ve caught this article right after it was posted since I’m the second comment and the first one from Penrod makes a lot of sense, has NO stupid, nonsensical one liners referring to Walker as some sort of tool of the devil him/herself (or split into two, equally super evil people hell bent on ruining life for everyone-yes, I mean the Koch brothers) and what the $40+ billion each Koch’s have to do with some small time landlord is beyond me, but I’m sure the usual nonsense comments will be soon to follow!

    As far as this “study” or whatever you’d like to call it, how much do you want to bet this person came in with a totally biased disposition as to (evil?) landlords vs (virtuous but still oppressed?) tenants and the legal system biased hopelessly against them? I’d bet my life on it! Does he have ANY CLUE that Milwaukee County, with the possible exception of the city of Madison (which has ordinances biased towards tenants to the point where one well experienced local attorney simply advises to not invest in Madison as a residential landlord at all) that MKE Cty is well known for having a judiciary that bends over backwards to side with tenants who abuse to all possible extents their tenancy? Where according to several attorneys I’ve talked to, many judges simply ignore the revisions made to landlord/tenant law several years ago as if they never happened and since you’re usually talking about a small time landlord who can’t afford to even dream of an appeal, they can continue this unchecked for years. Cross 124th street and you’ll find a MUCH different story in Waukesha Cty, where tenants who decide to quit paying rent but not leave, trash their homes for whatever reason and cause massive amounts of damage and if its a duplex or multi unit, make life hell for their neighbors and they’ll be evicted on the spot by judges who follow the laws.

    Besides Penrod’s EXCELLENT POINT-WHY WOULD ANY LANDLORD WANT TO EVICT PEOPLE WHO ARE EVEN HALFWAY DECENT TENANTS, you also miss another huge point here, all of the awful consequences for the many, many very good tenants who’s lives are made a living hell when one of these clowns who knows how to “game the system” (often with the major help of very well meaning but also often clueless as to who they’re really helping, “tenants assistance groups”. So, you’re a decent tenant, or even as is so often the case, your landlord knows you’re having money trouble but sees you’re a decent person, whether its a single mom, married couple, whatever and takes the rent 5, 10, 20 days late and waives the penalty for paying late (this is so common with these supposedly evil and greedy landlords!) because he/she is just happy to have tenants who aren’t trashing the place, having all sorts of foot traffic stopping by for the usual “one minute visit”(hmmmm, wonder what that’s all about???) or maybe even they see you have kids and don’t want to evict you and give you many chances to pay late and often things do work out in the end, mom or mom and dad get steady employment, budget their money and become great tenants. Yet, thanks to our often insane judiciary that tries so hard NOT to evict anyone, you’ve got that upstairs neighbor who blasts the music at 330am on a school night, has the constant foot traffic that we all know damn well means they’re dealing out of the place, does stupid crap like not pay the heat bill all winter since they can’t shut it off, blasts the heat at 80 degrees and then come April 15th or whatever that cutoff date is, bangs on your back door with an extension cord in hand and maybe a gun tucked in their waistband, just in case you have any issues about powering their unit as well, now that their electric is shut off??

    THOSE are the real victims here, NOT the people who sure as hell should be evicted for any number of reasons and that’s also why as a former owner of multiple rentals and seeing just a taste of it myself but seeing much more the hell that both good landlords as well as good tenants are put through, thanks to yes, a small number of slumlords who are made out to be nearly every landlord in town (total lie!) as well as the relatively small % of just downright TERRIBLE tenants who know how to game the system, again so often with some well meaning but totally detached from reality “tenants rights” person at their side, I say no thanks!

    I’ve got ONE single family home I rent out now, had same tenants since I bought it 4 years ago, who know that if they call me I will get it fixed-UNLESS its their fault and even then I’ve eaten that cost more than a few times and educated them on a few things “no, these new low water usage toilets aren’t like the old 5 gallons a flush water wasters where you can flush nearly anything down without any problems, so I’ll pay for this $150 service call, but next time its on you as it says in the lease and get used to it, I doubt with the emphasis on not wasting fresh water you’ll see the return of the 5 gallons per flush models!”

    I’ve also done things like when seeing they decided to install a basement “man cave” and were overloading the few outlets in the basement, which were perfectly fine and safe and up to code for what WAS there, a washer, dryer and one plug in light, plus the several pull chain lights around the basement along the conduit runs, but then I stop by and see a ridiculous number of the cheap crap 99 cent extension cords plugged into the washer/dryer outlets and now powering a bunch of lamps, big screen TV, boomin stereo system, etc after freaking out for a minute or two, I brought them down and gave a little talk on things like voltage drop, how pulling probably close to 15 amps of power through this maze of cords was literally a question of WHEN NOT IF a fire starts and that they MUST shut it down until the electrician gets the permit and runs more outlets and adds a couple of circuits for the basement. How much did I charge them for that, which cost me nearly $1000? ZERO! Yep, I’m just another typical greedy landlord like this CLOWN came here looking for!

  6. BT says:

    Well, at least I was 2nd comment when I started typing!

  7. Penrod says:

    Hi BT: “but I’m sure the usual nonsense comments will be soon to follow!” or possibly immediately precede yours. More shall surely follow, though.

    It is a shame that what could be a forum for reasonable discourse tends to get hijacked, but I guess it goes with the territory.

  8. Andy Umbo says:

    I lived in Bayview for 10 years and only got my flat rent raised once (50 bux). I lived on Milwaukee’s west side near Washington park and got it raised 50 bux once in 2.5 years, I live in Indianapolis now, and it’s been raised over 160 dollars in 18 months. My job, if I’m lucky, gets me a 1.5% raise every 12 months, and every year I’ve lived here, and every time they raise the rent, I bring home less. In fact, the sub-30’s on my team that rent here, tell me rental companies raise their rents so much money in 3 years, they virtually have to look for new places to rent every 3 years, and then when they move out, their rental companies at the old places drop the rent so that it makes it attractive for someone else to move in!

    So, to the person that asked: No…no, rental companies and landlords do not want to keep good renters in a place by offering reasonable rent and not raising it more than the cost of living. They want to work whatever scheme works for them to maximize the profit short term, even if that means churning renters and going through a series of bad ones. For rental and property companies, bad tenants are the cost of doing business, and they’ll always have a few…

  9. Bill Sell says:

    Bruce, thanks for bringing forward Desmond’s report. It’s a pity that this (real) story does not touch the hearts (or even invite the curiosity?) of so many arm-chair landlords.

  10. Dave says:

    Did the JS begin their new commenting policy already pushing all the right wing sacks o crap here to spew their vile opinions?

  11. Tm says:

    The article in the New Yorker is sympathetic to both the landlord and the tenant.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    Some people here represent humanity at its worst. It must be nice to be perfect and have vast knowledge of every other person’s life. You never made a mistake when you were 19. And of course you know first-hand what it’s like to be homeless and struggle like the people in the story have. Of course some people deserve to be evicted and don’t deserve sympathy, but you basically label every single person in poverty a degenerate loser worthy of only scorn (and I guess you are a saint). Being filled with that much hate and being so callous and judgmental, that’s no way to live. OK you can get back to yelling at people to get off your lawn now.

  13. Barbara Cooley says:

    The article doesn’t say people are being evicted for being noisy, destructive, drug addicted, deadbeat tenants. It says the problem is concentrated among poor women with children whose incomes have not kept pace with the cost of living. I’m sure there are two sides to the story but unless you have walked in the shoes of a poor single mother, please save the judgments.

  14. Sam says:

    Everyone’s anecdotes are great and reflect their own experience with this issue. I for one, only encountered evictions when I worked as a process server for a bit (exciting job!) and I had one friend who was evicted for not consistently paying rent on time. I’ve thought about investing in property and becoming a landlord, but it sounds like a real headache.

    Unfortunately, the anecdotes don’t deflect the facts that may lead to many evictions highlighted in this article. That includes the lack of affordable housing, stagnant wages, the cutting of tax breaks for low-income people, and the gutting of local landlord/tenant ordinances that were in favor of tenants.

    The anecdotes in the NY Times article that Penrod pointed out are illustrative. These folks many times don’t know what they are doing. They have no money management skills and make bad choices. I used to work at one of those tenant’s rights places and that was the case on occasion. You could tell them exactly what to do to save the situation, but they wouldn’t budge. That could be a product of constant crisis management. No time to think long-term.

    Or they may not give a damn. Which was the case on occasion too.

    My point is that if wages don’t go up and rents keep going up, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to have a lot more evictions and people on the street. I’d rather have them sheltered someplace on a more stable basis. There’s a world of benefit to that.

  15. BillL says:

    How many of you commenting are inner city Milwaukee Landlords? If you are not, then you really don’t know much, and you are missing the point. Bias,we all have it, no big deal. Since the first Desmond study was published some well respected landlords have had input to balance bias. Desmonds work isn’t about the cause of evictions, as much as it is about the community impact of them. What do you think the impact of 12000 evictions a year in Milwaukee is? The direct cost is easy: lost rent. Factor in the human cost. The impact of poor education, joblessness, etc. How much more do taxpayers pay for special ed, or basic skill remediation? How much tax revenue is lost because of poor training?

    The evictions aren’t too often about disruptive tenants, but lost rent. How many of you commenting have had to choose on a regular basis between rent and food? Between clothes for the kid and rent? Between health care and no health care? After feeding your kids, do you have enough pocket change to catch the bus to go to work? Point is, unless you have been a landlord to more than one low income tenant, you really don’t know enough to be useful. Comparing a Bay View experience to inner city Milwaukee is ignorant.

    So as a white guy let me be the first to remind you that MOST of these evictions are happening on Near South and North Side. The largest ethnic group impacted is Black’s and Latino’s in the most segregated city in the country. Let your imagination run with that a bit. Just about 36,000 families impacted in the last 3 years. Do you get a sense for the magnitude of this? What happens to your investment if the eviction number gets to 15,000?

    NEWS FLASH!! everybody makes mistakes. The younger you are the more “bad calls” you will make. That is life. But to penalize somebody for 5 years because they choose to feed their kids over paying rent. Really? What would you do? Or socially penalize one of the 700,000 felons in Wisconsin after they have done their time, is just mean. Either landlords figure out a way to bring tenants back into the market, government will.

    So the fastest growing group of people with drug felonies is white kids from the suburbs. This is not just a Milwaukee problem anymore.

  16. Casey says:

    I feel for both parties. I’ve never been evicted but I did live with no lights and very little groceries for a time when I was younger. Eventually I couldn’t make rent and crashed at peoples’ homes for two months before finding work again. If I knew then what I knew now I would’ve stayed in there because most landlords rather have a good tenant stay and be behind for a while then have to take a risk on a new tenant.
    Years later we own a couple inner city properties and to legally evict someone you really need to jump through hoops. By the time those problem tenants are gone more often then not they have trashed your property. They teach their children these behaviors and unfortunately the cycle continues.
    The last person we were going to evict thankfully left before we had to go through the whole process. In the mean time an empty bottle of liquor was thrown through our kitchen window by her addict son. The rent that they did pay over the course of the two years they were there barely covered the cost of the repairs that had to be made. Then because we missed the mail ended up having to reimburse her her deposit x2.
    Its hard being a landlord in the inner city. Some people will work the system and leave you hanging. It makes it hard to trust the tenants that might actually be doing the best they can. Those ones I don’t mind them paying late as long as they show they’re trying to pay and are taking care of things.

  17. Penrod says:

    Hi Barbara Cooley: “unless you have walked in the shoes of a poor single mother, please save the judgments.”

    I take it that you would also apply this policy to criticizing rich people. Unless you have been rich, and felt the problems of managing wealth, and the envy of those without wealth, and the worry that your children may end up as self-hating rich layabouts or as arrogant rich layabouts agitating for government favors instead of living productive lives, please save the judgements. Uh-huh.

    “Arleen” complains that she foolishly gave up subsidized housing when she was 19 years old: If she had, she could still be there, she said regretfully.

    Great. What has Arleen done in the ensuing 20 years to improve her income? Gotten her GED? We aren’t told, so my guess is “No.” Develop a record as a reliable employee, possibly worthy of promotion? Doesn’t look like it.

    What has she done to help her children get an education so they don’t follow her in welfare addiction? Allowed them to regularly skip school.

    What else has she done? Complain that her welfare benefits haven’t kept up with the cost of living?

    Wow. Maybe she should be proactive and lobby the legislature for increased benefits.

    Frankly, while I am not surprised, I am disappointed by the level of response. While most critics of the article wrote reasonably, the attacks consist largely of ugly name calling.

    From this I am left with the sad conclusion that our critics are incapable of making reasoned criticisms, or at least believe themselves incapable. That saddens me, but it should sadden you folks all the more. Incapable of engaging in reasoned debate, incapable of anything but calling others names.

    Go ahead: Instead of addressing anything I have actually said, call me more names. You only demean yourselves.

  18. Dave says:

    “Unless you have been rich, and felt the problems of managing wealth, and the envy of those without wealth, and the worry that your children may end up as self-hating rich layabouts or as arrogant rich layabouts agitating for government favors instead of living productive lives, please save the judgements.”

    This might be the most absurd thing (which is saying something considering we’re usually graced with WCD’s insane comments) I’ve ever read on UM. Congrats.

  19. David Buck says:

    What I see in this piece is a direct link to the problems of the Milwaukee schools where families and schools have to contend with frequent transfers between schools by families who have lost their housing. How can schools, teachers, families and children contend with is continual change in classrooms?

  20. Casey says:

    @David Buck – I didn’t go to MPS and neither do I send my kids to MPS but with busing can’t they stay in the same school as long as they’re within city limits?

  21. BillL says:

    Penrod Be as sad as you want. Unless you are willing to put yourself under the same microscope that you are putting Arleen under, you should keep quite and save yourself some embarrassment. Arleen is not the issue. Maybe you could show off your skill and define an issue that is not a personal attack.

  22. BillL says:

    Casey. The place the problem starts is when a low income parent losses their housing for whatever reason, then attending school is secondary. There are several thousand kids trying to attend MPS that do not have a permanent address.

  23. Bruce Murphy says:

    Casey, school busing at MPS has been cut back since its heyday, but even then there wouldn’t have been enough routes to assure that every student who moves can simply get a bus back to their original school.

  24. Vincent Hanna says:

    Well no male can know what it’s like to be a single mother, so it’s actually not the same Penrod.

    Then you say: We aren’t told, so my guess is “No.”

    Why is that your guess? Why are you so quick to judge someone you don’t know? How are your comments “reasoned” exactly?

  25. Casey says:

    Bill- Well that further shows the parent’s poor decision making skills.

    Bruce- thank you for the insight. Generally I don’t think busing is good for MPS and the housing insecurity many students face was the only benefit I saw to use it. To give the kid some kind of stability.

  26. BT says:

    Ok, so you take an article, “study”, whatever you want to call it and to those of us with common sense, the author came here with an agenda as obvious as they come, to show the “horrible” plague of these evil landlords who, despite this flying in the face of all common sense when the vast majority of landlords, whether they’re in the inner city or suburbs want to avoid avoid like the plague having to evict a tenant, ESPECIALLY in MKE Cty, where the vast majority of judges bend over backwards to give tenants who have not paid rent (yet paid the cable bill, since THAT gets shut off fast!) trashed the place, violated all sorts of rules and although no I’ve just owned one rental in the lowest income parts of the city, through landlords I know as well as through two different landlord’s groups I belong to, I know a list of them as long as my arm and 3 more arms and have heard so many of these awful experiences.

    Yet, what so many of the foaming at the mouth, ready to eviscerate any landlord crowd here totally miss (and miss so predictably!) is that the people who are hurt so badly by this are the MANY, MANY great people who are struggling to create a decent life for themselves and often their kids who have to put up with not only the constant annoyances (like the music some idiot decides to blast from their home or car at 3am, the amazing number of people who think their car horn doubles as a doorbell and if that doesn’t work, just keep laying on the horn for 5, 10 minutes and sooner or later the person you’re there to get should appear, but God forbid having to park the car and walk up and ring the actual doorbell!) No, besides all of that annoying crap, they also must put up with the occasional errant bullet that comes through your window. Its just like whenever I read a letter or op-ed from someone from outside the inner city as to how to “fix things” and it inevitably is all about ex-cons, felons, criminals, etc and how we need to make life so wonderful for them, which of course ALWAYS includes throwing tons of money at them, yet rarely if ever mentions the plain fact that MOST north side residents (and yes, I mean black people since that’s mostly the population there) are NOT CRIMINALS, EX CONS, FELONS, ETC I never hear a thing about clearing up the massive amounts of red tape you must navigate if you start a LEGIT small business (but do an under the table, non legit, non insured, illegal business and advertise daily on craigslist,etc and no red tape!) nope, its all about increasing handouts, etc,

    Finally, for the reason why rents have continued to increase, a simple understanding of two things explains that 100%-

    #1-DEMAND-We’ve seen a skyrocketing demand for rentals and less homeownership or even people seeking to own a home for a variety of reasons, people are far more mobile now, after the 2009 crash, many younger people are leery about buying and what I’ll get to in #2, all add up to far more demand for rentals and unless you slept through Econ 101, you ought to know that drives prices up, not greedy, evil landlords who get a kick out of seeing a single mom and her young kids thrown out of a home!

    #2-GOVERNMENT RED TAPE TO “PROTECT” US FROM “PREDATORY LENDING”-Now, when you go in to get a mortgage and lie through your teeth about your income, assets,etc to get a loan you’ll never be able to afford short of winning that excellent investment known as Powerball, I fail to see how that’s predatory lending. Yet, our gov’t, fully supported by the gov’t fixes everything crowd, now saddles banks with red tape to simply write a mortgage. This isn’t all that big of a deal for the mega-banks that many of the same gov’t lovers rail against, BOA’s cost per mortgage written is miniscule, but smaller banks who write a fraction of a fraction of BOA’s mortgages face a HUE cost per mortgage.

    So who does that hit very, very hard? Besides the obvious answer of smaller banks, it hits both rural areas AND places like the inner city here. Banks like North Milwaukee State Bank, a black founded and owned bank with a proud history of what must be 30 or more years in business now are hit like like a load of bricks by these needless regs and red tape and its banks like NMSB that are (or WERE) far more likely to write a mortgage to a black family who maybe through a trusted 3rd party who can “vouch” for them to the loan committee or even members of the loan committee knowing this family personally, knowing the eve though they may not have an excellent credit score, but at least ok score and that they come from an honorable, well established extended family that will do whatever it takes to make sure that mortgage gets paid, USED to often get them that home loan and into ownership. Say goodbye to those
    days and you can thank the current admin and their being bought and paid for by Citi, BOA, Chase, etc for that. Now, its all about meeting those all important debt to income ratios, credit scores, etc and that’s not some evil landlord plot, or GOP “hold down the non whites” plan, that came straight from the current admin and their love for gov’t overreach!

  27. BillL says:

    Casey. People with poor skills make poor decisions. It’s hard to play aces when all you got is duces. Instead of focusing on the duces try examining why the game is rigged against poor people

  28. M says:

    The plague of evictions seems like a glaring symptom of even more glaring problems. It’s easier to blame “slumlords” and “welfare mothers” than to look at or try to address policies and trends that have perpetuated what many call “systemic racism” and resultant poverty in Milwaukee (and other cities too, but MKE’s often considered among the worst).

    A few of those factors include:
    Keeping black people from getting to where jobs are.
    Discouraging people from living outside official red-lined areas through lending policies.
    Decimating communities through mass incarceration esp. for minor drug charges.
    Expecting “boost-strapping” to solve problems within cratered-out neighborhoods.

    These problems were created over decades and will not be overcome easily, but they never will be solved if people give up trying. There are some good initiatives trying to tackle big problems. We need many more and to have people from all sectors getting involved.

    And Ta-Nihisi Coates, a MacArthur genius grantee, offers broader perspectives on the issues.

  29. Andy Umbo says:

    My point is, I get there are bad people, and people that don’t intend to pay and wreck the place they live in; BUT, if costs of owning property and renting it, is out-stripping peoples ability to pay, then there’s a problem. I can’t afford to pay 3/4’s of my take-home pay on an efficiency apartment in an area where my car won’t get broken into every night. Property owners have a laundry list of woe’s, and I get it, but hey, if you live in a metro area with stagnant wages and no jobs, guess what, you can’t keep raising the rent! YOU need to hit up your state reps for property tax relief, or whatever tax saving and expense saving process you need to get involved in, because if the working class has no money, and gets virtually no raises, you can’t keep going back to the rent trough every time you need more.

  30. Vincent Hanna says:

    I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with landlords as a renter and I’m glad to not be renting anymore. When I lived in a small apartment building in Bay View, the young couple above me partied almost every night. Loud music and shouting until 3 or 4 in the morning almost every night. Talking to them didn’t help so I went to the landlord. Or tried to. They did nothing. I moved as soon as I could.

    On the east side in a place on Belleview, the small one-bedroom I rented in an old building had tile floors that were damaged when I moved in. When I moved out (with no change whatsoever to the floors) the landlord threatened to take me to small claims court for months. It was a nightmare. They were absolutely awful to deal with.

    In another place on the east side, on Farwell, the landlord outsourced everything to an old couple who lived in and managed the building. They were chain-smokers in pretty poor health and absolutely useless. They never left their unit and were totally non-responsive to requests for help with anything. The landlord was completely MIA.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever had a good experience with a landlord.

  31. Penrod says:

    Hi Andy, I think you made several good points. “if costs of owning property and renting it, is out-stripping peoples ability to pay, then there’s a problem.” A huge one, and not easily addressed by the tenants without the emotional, financial, and social upheaval of moving out of town to a more economically dynamic area.

    It isn’t easily addressed by the Arleens of America without getting a decent education which qualifies them for decent jobs- educations which most had available as children, and which they rejected then, with the approval of their peers and at least the acceptance of their parents.

    Most of the Midwest, and North East, have been a lot less than dynamic since the decline and/or collapse of multiple industries which used to supply well-paid jobs to millions of people, both low skilled and high skilled. The most highly educated have mostly done well, both because they seem more likely to re-locate, and because the skills needed everywhere have increasingly been those the well educated can supply.

    The lower skilled people have taken a terrible beating as their jobs were moved, first to the South and later overseas in order to be able to survive overseas competition. The New England textile industry was among the first to collapse in the ’50s and ’60s as the mills went south for cheaper labor. We tend to forget just how expensive clothes were in those days, especially adjusted for inflation.

    Back around 1970, a Berkshire-Hathaway shirt was around $20. That’s $122 in today’s money, and that is why old closets were a lot smaller than they are built today. Those $20/$122 shirts supported a lot of textile workers and their families, but consumers wanted shirts a lot cheaper: bye-bye tens of thousands of well paid jobs in New England.

    Ditto heavy manufacturing in the upper Midwest. AO Smith was running what, 50,000 well paid employees making car frames in three shifts in the 1950s? Now cars don’t use frames, the jobs are gone, and so is most of the spectacular AO Smith fortune. Tough for the Smiths, calamity for their former workers and their kids. And for the owners of the housing stock, who have trouble making enough in rent to cover the costs and reward their trouble and risk.

    In some cases the renters are better off moving to more dynamic areas, and huge numbers have. The decline in Milwaukee’s population demonstrates that pretty clearly: people have both moved to the suburbs and out of state. Even with the declining value of housing -how many houses in Milwaukee today sell for half of replacement cost?- wages stink, property taxes are a calamity, older housing stock soaks up a lot of maintenance money and people who want to live alone may well be better off living with roommates.

    And all too many of the Arleens of America bought into the school age claim that The Man would never let them have good jobs, that The Man was out to get them, and that studying hard was ‘acting white’ instead of acting middle class, and the Arleens of Milwaukee and the rest of the country never accepted that the only Man holding them back was The Man between their own ears. In an America filled with government demands -legislated mostly by white people because white people are the majority- on businesses to have minorities well represented in their work forces, well educated minorities who can get along with other people are at a premium; businesses want them because they can’t get government contracts without them.

    The racists who are holding minorities back aren’t the white ones: it’s the minority racists who tell each other and themselves, and most importantly their children, starting as children that they must not study, they must not finish high school with good grades, they must not go to technical school, they must not go to college, because that is all ‘acting white’, and The Man won’t let them succeed.

    So I do feel sorry for the Arleens, but their problem isn’t some mythical White Man beating them down. The Man is the one in their own community telling them they cannot succeed, and making sure that their ambition tops out at getting a subsidized apartment to live in the rest of their lives. So, yeah, I do feel sorry for the Arleens: they grow up in an oppressive, racist sub-culture, which destroys their lives, and the Arleens, as we saw in the New Yorker article, are dedicated to passing that sub-culture to their children who are allowed not to go to school.

    I don’t know what to do about the Arleens, but I do know one thing: it isn’t racist white suburbanite capitalists who are oppressing them. White people don’t have to oppress them: They are self-oppressing.

  32. Vincent Hanna says:

    “The racists who are holding minorities back aren’t the white ones: it’s the minority racists who tell each other and themselves, and most importantly their children, starting as children that they must not study, they must not finish high school with good grades, they must not go to technical school, they must not go to college, because that is all ‘acting white’, and The Man won’t let them succeed.”

    This is quite provocative. Who is doing this? Who are the minority racists in Milwaukee telling people not to educate their children? Who do you know personally that is doing this? I’d like to know because this sure sounds like a whole lot of nonsense. Are you white? Because a white person claiming the real racists are minorities is hugely problematic.

  33. M says:

    Penrod, Like Vincent, I wonder from what viewpoint you are placing the blame for all problems within the black community on that community. It’s easy to invoke the stereotype of “self-limiting” blacks. Some people also criticize blacks when they seem too boastful or proud.

    I am white and have worked with numerous black adults trying to get their GED who have managed to raise children who graduated from college, some even get advanced degrees. Some have severe learning disabilities that went undiagnosed all through school and their lack of literacy became one more obstacle in a life full of challenges.

    What about all the people who overcome great odds, including poverty, schools without computers or decent facilities or many basics?

  34. Penrod says:

    Hi Vincent and M, The term ‘acting white’ is now 30 years old and hardly secret. It may indeed be “quite provocative”:

    “Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn.They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”
    —Barack Obama, Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention, 2004


    “Before he was elected as President, Senator Barack Obama, was criticized in 2007 as “acting white” by Jesse Jackson in relation to a specific case involving blacks.[15] Also before Obama’s election, Ralph Nader, a longtime activist, in 2008 characterized the senator as “talking white”.[16]”


    Google ‘acting white’ for many, many, many sources.

  35. Vincent Hanna says:

    Way to not answer the questions Penrod. You’re just like WCD, which is too bad.

  36. M says:

    Penrod, I do not dismiss the fact that aversion to “acting white” is an issue, but it’s one that is in fact being addressed within the community, including, as you note, by our president. I take issue with using that phenomenon to say blacks are “racists” who are causing or perpetuating every problem their communities face.

    In MKE, have you checked out Andre Lee Ellis’s “We Got This” project, Urban Underground. Running Rebels, etc., etc.? They have a very different message and approach.

  37. AG says:

    Well at least we see how easy it is to throw around the race/racism card. Related: evicting someone who doesn’t pay their rent is not racist.

  38. Vincent Hanna says:

    Waiting for WCD to call everyone in Milwaukee a white, liberal racist to complement Penrod calling minorities the real racists. That way everyone can be a racist.

  39. AG says:

    Aren’t we all truly racist on the inside? I’m pretty sure I hate all races equally. Oh wait, does that negate the racism? Now I confused myself…

  40. Vincent Hanna says:

    Don’t worry it will be cleared up soon. Probably. Well, maybe.

  41. M says:

    When in doubt, a dictionary comes in handy, in this case Oxford…

    Racism: the ​belief that people’s ​qualities are ​influenced by ​their ​race and that the ​members of other ​races are not as good as the ​members of ​your own, or the ​resulting ​unfair ​treatment of ​members of other ​races:
    The ​authorities are taking ​steps to ​combat/​fight/​tackle racism in ​schools.
    The ​report made it ​plain that ​institutional racism (= racism in all ​parts of an ​organization) is ​deep-rooted in this ​country.

  42. AG says:

    Oh good, so if you hate all races equally you are not a racist.

    However, Merriam-Webster does not specify that you must believe your own race to be superior. Their definition allows you to be racist against your own race. We should go by that definition since Americans are better than the British. (That’s Xenophobic, not racist so it’s ok)

  43. M says:

    AG, some go by the code that you can get away with saying certain things about your own race, ethncity, gender or gender identity etc. that you can’t as freely say about “others.” But that’s if you subscribe to that honor code.

    You sound a bit like Woody Allen in his vintage self-deprecating persona. Some comics succeed in being equal-opportunity offenders–but they have to be damn funny to get away with it (Louis CK, Amy Schumer and Larry David come to mind).

    I’ll cut a good artist slack any day but the rest of us schlubs probably are, or should be, held to some standard of civility. Great comics often speak some truth or another, which is why they get a pass while mere mortals with an acid tongue often do not.

  44. Andy Umbo says:

    Penrod seems to be missing the point. I’m white, college educated and have spent my life tweaking my education for every new technology that comes along, AND I CAN’T AFFORD RENTS GOING UP EITHER! The right wing republican myth that you are the master of your destiny and if you stumble, it’s something you did, has been laughably disproved so many times. Virtually everything people (especially the right wing) think about self-actualization and motivation in a job market only works if there are open jobs that need placement, none of it works if you have 8 to 10 unemployed for every available job (welcome to Milwaukee), and it costs thousands if not tens of thousands to relocate to a better market (trust me, I’ve done it three times), with no guarentee it will work out and you’ll get hired. Cost keep going up, and it gets harder to get a decent, tiny place and keep it, and my pay doesn’t go up in a market where there are multiple idle people to take over my position.

    Penrod’s opinions sound like the ones I hear from people born on 3rd base who think they hit a home run!

  45. Casey says:

    These are some pretty good comments. My family is the family of the future. We jokingly call ourselves the 2050 family. We’re split pretty evenly black/white, with a slight majority of black and a little sprinkling of hispanic. I tend to agree with both sides of the comments in one form or another.

    Sowell summed it up decently with this: The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today`s ghettos is regarded by many as the only `authentic` black culture—and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.”

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