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A Blog Post from Tom Holmes

Tom Holmes

More quotes from Evicted by Matthew Desmond.  See what you think.  Both low income tenants and their landlords seem to be responsible in part for poor housing.

58 Arleen received the same stipend in 2008 that she would have when welfare was reformed over a decade earlier: $20.65 a day, $7,536 a year.  Since 1997, welfare stipends in Milwaukee and almost everywhere else have not budged, even as housing costs have soared.  For years, politicians have known that families could not survive on welfare alone.

59 It would mean the difference between stable poverty and grinding poverty.

59 In larger cities like Washington, D.C., the wait for public housing was counted in decades.

59 Most poor people in America were like Arleen: they did not live in public housing or apartments subsidized by vouchers.  Three in four families who qualified for assistance received nothing.
61 Those poor and disabled enough to receive SSI but not clean enough to be welcomed into public housing made up the social worker’s client base.  She estimated that rent payments took between 60 and 70 percent of her typical client’s monthly income. 

62ff. Even if Arleen signed over her entire welfare check each month, she would still be short. 

69 Poor families were often compelled to accept substandard housing in the harried aftermatch of eviction.

70 The public peace—the sidewalk and street peace—of cities is not kept primarily by the police, necessary as police are.  It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves. (Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities)

70 The key link in a perpetual slum is that too many people move out of it too fast.

74 Because the rent took almost all of their paycheck, families sometimes had to initiate a necessary eviction that allowed them to save enough money to move to another place.

75 The poor did not crowd into slums because of cheap housing. . . .Landlords at the bottom of the market generally did not lower rents to meet demand and avoid the costs of all those missed payments and evictions there were costs to avoiding those costs too.  For many landlords, it was cheaper to deal with the expense of eviction than to maintain their properties; it was possible to skimp on maintenance if tenants were perpetually behind; and many poor tenants would be perpetually behind because their rent was too high.  Tenants able to pay their rent in full each month could take advantage of legal protections designed to keep their housing safe and decent. . . .But when tenants fell behind, these protections dissolved. . . .It was not that low-income renters didn’t know their rights.  They just knew those rights would cost them.

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