Evicted: Poverty and Profit in American Cities (2nd 7 Weeks)
W 2019



A stable place to call home is one of the best predictors of success. Yet, each year more than 2.3 million Americans, most of them low-income renters, face eviction. While it used to be rare even in the poorest neighborhoods, forcible removal has become ordinary, with families facing eviction from the most squalid, barely inhabitable apartments.  


What if the dominant discourse on poverty is just wrong? What if the problem isn’t that poor people have bad morals – that they’re lazy and impulsive and irresponsible and have no family values – or that they lack the skills and smarts to fit in with our shiny 21st-century economy? What if the problem is that poverty is profitable? These are the questions at the heart of this SDG using Matthew Desmond’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning book Evicted as the basis for discussion.

Weekly Topics

Week One : Prologue pages 1-9 and Rent - Chapters 1- 4 pages 9-52

Week Two : Rent Chapters 5 – 8 pages 53 – 110

Week Three: Eviction Chapters 9 – 12 Pages 111 -157

Week Four:  Eviction Chapters 13 – 16 Pages 158 – 206

Week Five:  Aftermath Chapters 17 -20 Pages 207 – 254

Week Six:   Aftermath Chapters 21 – Epilogue Pages 255 – 314

Week Seven: Weigh the positives and negatives of renting in the private housing market versus renting in the subsidized housing market. Look at local rental listings in our area to determine the real costs of renting in both markets.  Discuss any explanations for differences. In addition the presenter for week seven may include one or more of the following:

·       Research the history of rent control in a local municipality.  How do the provisions of rent control impact evictions, if at all?  What are the differences in rent control laws as they relate to evictions in the area? What are the positives and negatives on the eviction rate?

·       Interview a landlord. (There are a few among our PLATO members!) What is his or her job like? What are the biggest challenges facing landlords today? How do laws help or prevent landlords from offering decent, affordable housing to low-income families?

 -   Research the federal government’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. Who is this program designed to support? How many households benefit from this program? Why do you think Desmond advocates for stabilizing rents before expanding a universal voucher program? How could a housing voucher program be structured to be more efficient?

-    Many tenants summoned to eviction court don’t show up, and only one in six families eviction have another residence lined up. What is the judicial process in Los Angeles County to evict a tenant? Research one publicly-funded legal service for families in housing court. Was the program a cost-effective service? Why or why not? What other support services could decrease the rate of evictions in major American cities?

-    Research an existing tenants’ union in a major American city. How did it form? Has it been challenged? If yes, by whom? How has it supported tenants living at or below the poverty level? With 60 % of the population in Los Angeles renting their housing, what are some of the reasons why there is no tenants’ union in the area?



Core book

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, 2016



Other Resources

-nlihc.org — The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving

socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes

-nhlp.org — The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) is a nonprofit national housing and legal advocacy center established in 1968

-urban.org — The Urban Institute’s mission is to open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions through economic and social policy research

-https://www.nbm.org/exhibition/evicted/ (National Building Museum exhibition through May 2019)