Monday, January 6, 2014
Harvard Magazine takes a look at the recent work of sociologist Matthew Desmond, who found shockingly high rates of forced moves in Milwaukee:
Analyzing court records of formal evictions, he found that in Milwaukee’s majority-black neighborhoods, 1 in 14 renting households is evicted each year—and even this proportion significantly underestimates the number of families whose lives are disrupted by involuntary displacement. That’s because formal evictions can be expensive for landlords—in addition to lawyers’ fees, they must pay court costs and an hourly charge for the eviction squad—so they often work out agreements with tenants, sometimes even paying them cash to move out. Desmond also met landlords who used more adversarial means, cutting off electricity or even removing the front door of a tenant in arrears so that the unit would be condemned and the tenant forced to move out.
These sorts of forced relocations take place off the books. So Desmond collected new survey data from more than a thousand Milwaukee renters to try and capture all involuntary displacements and gain a more comprehensive picture. Working with sociology graduate student Tracey Shollenberger, he found that the most recent move for almost one in eight Milwaukee renters was an eviction or other involuntary relocation; the ratio rises to one in seven for black renters, and fully one in four for Hispanic renters.