Book Review: Eviction by Matthew Desmond

Marginalization is enjoying some much needed attention especially since it has been reported that 1% of the population has acquired 82% of all wealth. While this may seem incredibly stressful, the situation is worse than it seems as the acquisitions have caused ripple effects the likes of which most human beings could never endure. Matthew Desmond takes us through some of the most marginalized communities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the winters are harsh and most of the jobs are in the service sector. Most of the people mentioned demonstrate the difficulty of excelling even in a city with a comprehensive job market, and the unspoken unity of disparaged communities. It is clear that such a world lives apart from the eyes of the majority of the public despite its growing population.

Unlike most writers, the author began with the accounts of the residents rather than the author’s opinions and solution to the problem. Instantly, readers are thrust into situations where they will invariably pick sides while understanding that the residents have little choice. Most people have a structured understanding of the world which will immediately become distorted while reading about such disadvantage in the same city that hosts a Major League Baseball team. Situations are often either good for the landlords or the tenants, rarely both, and more often in favor of the landlords. Poor constituents often grow up quickly and lose hope even faster when faced with a rapidly changing society. Desmond helpfully takes everyone on a journey through a poor Midwestern winter, offering a glimpse of what happens to homes without heat and evictions regardless of the holiday season.

Only when Desmond has given us a vision of a year in the life of the desperate does he offer his opinions on the situation, and how it could change. Vouchers, the ever-trending solution in the eyes of Americans, could subsidize poor communities and make their homes more consistent and livable. Unfortunately, with the tax reform, most of the wealthy will play no part in such a policy meaning that the program would be subsidized by the already-shrinking middle class and other impoverished people. Therefore, instead of being helpful, it may increase resentment between those who have been able to secure a safe and secure living situation and those who are days awake from begging for sleeping space. He understands the critical situation, but has an already failing solution that depends on lobbyists not communicating with Congress to prevent such a policy.

Without massive redistribution, it will be impossible to change the housing situation. Sadly, those who are in positions to change the worlds described in this book are building companies and looking for tax incentives to avoid communal responsibility. Private charity is possible, but unless the elites begin competing with each other in compassion, most fear that the housing market with become even more ruthless. Until the country recognizes housing as a universal right, there will be more stories of hopelessness like the residents in this accounting.


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