‘Evicted’ Author Offers Solutions to Problem

Princeton University Prof. Matthew Desmond gives speech here, criticizes state laws.

By - May 18th, 2018 10:50 am
Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Scholar, author and sociologist Matthew Desmond doesn’t mince words when discussing the growing problem of evictions.

“No moral code or ethical principle, no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become,” Desmond, a Princeton University professor, wrote in the closing statement of his 2016 book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Desmond delivered a keynote address Wednesday for an event, “Home and Hope: A Community Call to Action,” hosted by Jewish Family Services.

Throughout his talk, Desmond, who received his doctorate from the UW-Madison, peppered his discussion with various statistics about the state of evictions.

Case in point: one in five black women renters face eviction at some point in their lives, compared to one in 15 white women.

“I think that should trouble us,” Desmond said. “I think that should unsettle us.”

Desmond also shared various findings and provided some of the first-hand stories encapsulated in his two-year-old book. In general, he said one in eight renters is evicted at some point.

“There are a lot of ways to get a family out — some nice and others not so nice,” Desmond said. “This is a problem that affects the young and the old.”

Throughout his hour-long talk before the group of several hundred attendees, Desmond also discussed the devastating impact on the persons who are suddenly forced to uproot their lives.

He took aim at a Wisconsin statute that makes eviction notices a matter of public record, which he said landlords and housing authorities can use punitively against renters.

“(Eviction) is a very stressful event,” Desmond said. “Without simple shelter, everything else starts to fall apart. The problems can become so entrenched and weigh us down.”

Desmond also touched on what he perceived as a vicious spiral with evictions and joblessness. The all-consuming nature of addressing housing needs, he said, can interfere with a person’s employment status — or efforts to seek out opportunities.

He also took aim at the stagnant condition of the minimum wage in Wisconsin, which he said does not reflect a person’s realistic needs to make ends meet.

“Work is no longer the solution to poverty,” he said. “I think that has to be recognized.”

Desmond acknowledged the issues surrounding eviction are complex, but called on attendees to work collaboratively toward finding meaningful solutions.

One proposal he favors is the expansion of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 voucher program.

“That would fundamentally change the nature of poverty in this country,” he said. “If you want to see real gratitude, be with a family who receives a housing voucher. It’s a game changer.”

He added, “A stable home … is a shot at getting a person in the right direction.”

Throughout the talk, he also implored attendees to explore whatever solutions — however small they might seem — to eradicate the complexity of the massive problem.

“We’re bleeding out,” Desmond said. “We need moral clarity on this issue.”

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Categories: Politics, Real Estate

10 thoughts on “‘Evicted’ Author Offers Solutions to Problem”

  1. AA says:

    Not making your mortgage on a property where a renter doesn’t pay you AND trashes the place is very stressful. I think the government should pay the owner’s loan to the bank. You want to see a very grateful landlord? Pay their mortgage…

  2. Jerald A. Peterson says:

    I have had a section 8 family with 8 children. The father refused to work. Tenant had multiple cats and a dog(pit bull) in violation of lease terms. The government paid their utilities so they would leave the front door wide open while the children played outside. Section 8 would not make the tenant repair the damage they caused. I had to evict them. Received a judgement for $8,000.00. Tenant refuses to pay. It cost me $17,000.00 to repair the house.

    Had another tenant who went to college and earned her degree. Tenant didn’t inform section 8 she got married and had another child. Tenant purchased new car, went on a cruise, stayed in a hotel. I was the one who informed section 8 what was going on. Section 8 removed her from the program. I believe she stole over $20,000.00 from the government.

    Had another section 8 tenant who refused to pay her portion of rent. I had to evict her.

  3. Bill L says:

    I was at the event. I enjoyed Mr. Desmond’s quick wit. A few things he got wrong, were not corrected. The law that required landlords to have an attorney in court was changed by the urging of the landlords the year after his research was concluded. He was told this and didn’t change his story. And since then, the playing field of eviction court has leveled off. Secondly, you can’t study eviction without studying landlords. The research was pretty lite on facts regarding the rental housing industry. Who invests and why is an important part of the equation. According to Milwaukee’s registration program the average number of units owned is 6. Hardly the big wall street investors the advocates want you to believe.

    I agree with raising the minimum wage and providing housing vouchers for low income tenants. The societal cost of not doing so is huge compared to the cost. The cost of housing vouchers is a drop in the bucket compared to an arena or trolley. I challenge the Mayor to get serious about solving this problem and create a local housing voucher program. Waiting for the state or the feds is futile.

  4. Bill Lauer says:

    Mr. Peterson, what is your point? We know that the financial impact of evictions on the rental housing industry, (landlords) is upwards of $20 million a year, for each of the last 20 years. Why that is, doesn’t matter to my bank, to the tax man,nor to me. But that is the problem. The result, is the current state of Milwaukee’s housing stock. Many board ups are because landlords are failing at an alarming rate because they are not collecting rent.

    Compare your Section 8 tenant stories with the stories of non section 8 tenants. We know that some people will abuse the system. Its not the voucher that causes people to destroy your property. That is a different problem. We also know that most of the 14,000 people evicted last year in Milwaukee Co. were because of non payment of rent thru no fault of their own. Lets stipulate that 30% were habitual scammers and get that rationalization out of the way……we still have a huge problem that costs us as taxpayer 10 times what it costs to give low income people housing vouchers. What would you choose? To get your rent? or Not? To have the resources to help the 30% find the help they need or not?

    I think that expanding the Section 8 program is stupid. The solution is to give low income people a locally funded housing voucher that stays with the tenant. That gives landlords no reason to not stay on top of maintenance. If they don’t, we have a fine building inspection department ready to fine the owners out of business. The infra structure is in place. However, the political will in Milwaukee is absent to solve this problem.

  5. Heiner Giese says:

    I was also at the Desmond talk on the 16th. His remarks pretty much repeated what he has been saying at other events which can be found on YouTube. I was disappointed that he did not update us on what has happened to the characters in his book whom he so grippingly portrays.

    My top-rated Amazon review of EVICTED can be found here:


    My video tour of some of landlord “Sherrena’s” former properties is on YouTube:


  6. Jerald A. Peterson says:

    I should have stated I moved to the Chattanooga Tennessee area in 2003/2004.

    I’ve been a landlord for 30 years now. In all these years maybe 2 section 8 tenants were able to better themselves so they no longer needed assistance. My point is the section 8 program should not be expanded. Having a voucher should not be a lifetime goal. My opinion is a person who has a voucher would have it for a limited time.

    It’s my understanding one of the reasons the voucher program was created was for people with limited income would be able to move to a better area with less crime and better schools so it would help end generation after generation of poverty. That’s the main reason I accept tenants with vouchers.

    My opinion to end poverty is to get educated so the person can receive a higher income. One needs to work….

  7. Kevin R. says:

    “Work is no longer the solution to poverty,” he said. “I think that has to be recognized.”

    What an incredibly predictable statement coming from a professor… who feeds off the taxpayer for a living. How much is this guy paid to pollute the minds of students with that kind of gibberish…!??

    What “has to be recognized”… Mr. Desmond… is that as long as these cities like Milwaukee.. and Detroit… and Baltimore… and Chicago…. remain in the grip of liberal democrat power machines, they will NEVER attract the kind of growth and development needed to break the chains of poverty imposed by the liberal plantations which they have become.

  8. Bill Lauer says:

    Mr. Peterson….I agree. I don’t like the section 8 program. That is why I am not advocating for its expansion. I think administration takes too much money our of it. However a locally funded program using existing infrastructure can work. Time limits don’t work, they create more long term problems. Who is to say how long it takes for a person to heal, to get educated, to care for children. Some will move along quickly, some will take more time.

    The original goals of the section 8 program may need to be tweaked because of current reality. The loss of huge numbers have family supporting jobs replaced by minimum wage or part time jobs is not working. And a college degree is not longer a guarantee of higher wages. The current problem is the damage that 14,000 evictions does to the housing industry in the city of Milwaukee. The cost that society pays for the instability that is created as a result. I don’t know Chattanooga so I won’t hazard a guess at your solution. I firmly believe that it is VERY hard to treat anything from addiction, to poverty, to poor education, to criminal recidivism, when housing is not stable, when child care costs 30% of your income. As a landlord I wrote and spoke about these things in the early 90’s. Things got worse.

    Your ideas may work in the long run….But what is the immediate solution to solving the eviction problem in Milwaukee? How do you stabilize the housing within a year?

  9. Bill Lauer says:

    Kevin,..”Work is no longer the solution to poverty,” he said. “I think that has to be recognized.”

    I was there. I don’t think that was the quote. I think he said that Work ALONE, is no longer the solution out of poverty.

  10. Kevin R. says:

    Mr. Lauer… I hope you are correct… which tempers my criticism of his outlook. Because I shudder to think what his alternative to “work” would be.
    Thanks for the input.

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