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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Struggles between Landlords & Tenants in Los Angeles

The subtitle of Matthew Desmond’s book, “Evicted,” is “Poverty and profit in the American city.” This serves as a reminder that although the book itself focuses on housing issues in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, struggles over rent are happening all across the United States. Most recently, tenants in an apartment complex in Highland Park are facing mass eviction as the new owners of the building look to renovate units and increase rents in an effort to capitalize on the flow of higher-income residents to the quickly-gentrifying neighborhood.

Desmond brings up the concept of tenants organizing and protesting evictions in the prologue of his book, noting that historically, such reactions were common responses to these events (Desmond, 3-4). However, as time went on and eviction rates increased, this community action happened less and less. By 2008, when Larraine was calling various programs for rent assistance, Desmond notes that she “did not dial the number to a tenants’ union because Milwaukee, like most American cities, didn’t have one” (Desmond, 112).

Because their building, Marmion Royal, was built later than many of the other buildings in the area, it was exempt from the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which would have limited rent increases to 3% per year and required owners to pay for the relocation fees incurred by residents who were evicted for renovations. Because of this, tenants are organizing, blocking renovation efforts, and reaching out to tenants’ unions (Los Angeles is one of a few cities that does have such organizations) in nearby neighborhoods. This action has encouraged more conversations between the landlords and tenants and, while it is yet unclear what the outcome will be, the whole situation is an interesting example of housing conflict that not featured as prominently in “Evicted.”

Read the full story from the L.A. Times here.

Written by Morgan Sederburg