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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Category: Go Big Read 2016-2017: Evicted

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is Chosen as the 2017-18 Go Big Read Book

Today, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, announced that the forthcoming 2017-2018 Go Big Read book is to be Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance.

“a deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures”

In Hillbilly Elegy, Vance provides his personal reflection on upward mobility in America seen through the lens of a white, working-class family in the Midwest. The ninth book in the history of the Go Big Read program, this year’s selection offers “a deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures.” The author is acutely aware of the many struggles “hillbilly” populations face—having himself descended from Kentucky “hill people” and grown up in a declining Ohio steel town. (jdvance.com).

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance was recently chosen as the 2017-2018 Go Big Read book.

As the official UW-Madison press release states, “Many have credited the book with providing understanding of the lives of those struggling with economic decline;” however, many critics have questioned whether the text presents an overly simplistic view of “poverty and personal responsibility” (news.wisc.edu).

J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy.

Yet, as Chancellor Blank shares, the nuances presented in the text echo the Go Big Read program’s “history of choosing books with challenging and timely topics” that  “generate a lively conversation about a set of important issues, about which people can agree or disagree” (news.wisc.edu).

We are excited to see what discussions and critical classroom engagement this book will bring to campus next year! For more information on the text and its author, please visit the news.wisc.edu.

Morgan Olsen
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Evicted Wins Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction

It is with much pride we share that this year’s Go Big Read text, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by UW alum and esteemed sociologist Matthew Desmond, has won the Pulitzer Prize.

Evicted was honored Monday as the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in General Nonfiction. The board cited the text as “a deeply researched exposé that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty” (pulitzer.org).

Students and faculty in the Sociology Department gather to hear Desmond, recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, speak on campus this past fall. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most esteemed honors in all of literature. Set forth in the 1904 will of Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-born, American newspaper publisher, the Prize functions as an “incentive to excellence” (pulitzer.org). Currently, there are 21 awards given each year across a variety of categories including journalism, letters, drama, and music; specific categories include, but are not limited to Breaking News Photography, Drama, Editorial Cartooning, History, Local Reporting, Music, Poetry, and Public Service Journalism. Winners of 20 of the 21 categories receive a certificate and cash reward, while the winner of the Public Service category receives the gold medal.

The Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal, awarded to winners of the Public Service category. CC Image courtesy of Fort Greene Focus on Flickr.

Congratulations to Matthew for this incredible and well deserved honor!

Morgan Olsen
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Go Big Read Art on Display in Teaching and Learning Programs Office

This past fall we shared that the Wisconsin School of Business’s direct admit LEAD course and the Go Big Read program had partnered to harness art as a means to further investigate the ideas presented in Go Big Read social justice texts. The result was 20 unique pieces of art, aimed to address social issues.

LEAD students creating their prints in Wheelhouse Studios.

In the Union’s Wheelhouse Studios last November, LEAD students drew on inspiration from historical and current social justice movement posters and evoked their own knowledge from Go Big Read texts Just Mercy and Evicted  (bus.wisc.edu). All in, 120 students implemented their creativity, collaboratively hand-making 20 beautiful posters.

One print made by LEAD students.

The artwork now hangs in the Go Big Read space, within the Teaching and Learning Programs office within Memorial Library. The prints add wonderful depth and interest to the space and speak to the Go Big Read program’s effort to stimulate campus discussions.

We are so proud to have such incredible student work gracing our walls!

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

HUD Faces Major Cuts Under Proposed 2018 Budget

On March 8, The Washington Post reported on considered budget cuts to HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, within the yet to be released 2018 presidential budget proposal. As the Post shared, the Trump administration was in the process of considering “more than $6 billion in cuts” to HUD “according to preliminary budget documents obtained by the [Post]” (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).

Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Trump. CC Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Sourced from said documents, “HUD’s budget would shrink by about 14 percent to $40.5 billion in fiscal 2018” year (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post). Although the preliminary plans maintain the “same level of funding to rental assistance programs and avoids reductions that could directly put families on the street,” many important portions and programs of the department could be squeezed or cut off completely. Primary losses will be seen within building maintenance, community development projects, and the department’s emergency discretionary funding.

Of primary concern, the proposed budget targets the public housing capital fund, cutting funding by $1.3 billion. As the Post describes, big ticket repairs within public housing facilities will essentially be put completely on hold, exacerbating the “tens of billions in backlogged repairs already [plaguing] the country’s 1.2 million public housing units.” Deteriorating conditions within public buildings will surely have a negative quality-of-life impact on families that rely on public housing.

Meanwhile, a complete removal of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is proposed. The CDBG, which has existed for over four decades and has for years has “enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress,” focuses on “[developing] viable urban and rural communities, expanding economic opportunities and improving quality of life, principally for persons of low- and moderate-income” (hud.gov). Providing grants to local governments, the program presents a wide framework in which local governments can easily adapt grant money for housing related community needs, so long as local projects fit within one of the CDBG’s three national objectives of:

  1. Providing benefit to low- and moderate-income persons
  2. Eliminating slums or blighting conditions
  3. Addressing urgent needs to community health and safety

These grants currently impact nearly 12 million Americans yearly. The reach of the program is astounding, each year benefiting 130,000 disabled peoples, 71,000 homeless shelter residents, and 400,000 senior citizens. The grants also provide for homeless, battered spouses, and AIDs patient services, impacting nearly 650,000 people in need in the 2016 fiscal year. In the past grant money has been used for long-term recovery projects in lower Manhattan following 9/11 and disaster relief for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina (hud.gov).

Houses built in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.

Recent CDBG projects like the creation of a new bike trail in New Orleans, the construction of affordable housing units in Milwuakee, and other housing and community initiatives will end following the program’s complete loss of funds (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).

Aside from the CDBG program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program, “which provides block grants for local communities to build affordable housing” and the Choice Neighborhoods program, aimed at investing and redeveloping low income communities, will be fully cut (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).

Meanwhile, large reductions in funding will be seen elsewhere—housing voucher programs will be cut by “at least $300 million,” housing for the elderly will “be cut by $42 million,” and housing for those with disabilities by $29 million. For Native American communities, the Indian Community Development Block Grants (ICDBG) program will be cut by 20% (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post). This is a major setback for native populations, which witness a 25.9% poverty rate, an 8% overcrowding rate within households, and an average annual per capita income of only $16,716. These figures compare drastically to a national average of 13.4%, 3%, and $27,041, respectively (hud.gov). The reduction in funding to the ICDBG program will heighten already dire housing situations for these communities.

The president released his Budget Blueprint last past week, and it appears that much of the initial considered HUD budget cuts are maintained. Although it remains ambiguous as to whether the public housing capital and operating funds will sustain major cutbacks, given that they fail to be directly addressed in the president’s brief 1 page summary of HUD’s 2018 funding, it is clear that HUD faces dramatic cuts. With a 2018 budget constraint of $40.7 billion, down from $46.9 billion in the current fiscal year, the department faces an overall 13.2% decrease in finances. What remains on the chopping block, as discussed above, includes the totality of the Community Development Block Grant Program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program, the Choice Neighborhood Program, and the Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Program.

If these cuts are to progress, serious consequences may be felt throughout low-income communities across the US. As it is, and as we have seen in Evicted, this year’s Go Big Read selection, housing affordability and stability, and strong community structure, are key to the success of families throughout the country. However, many low-income Americans cannot attain these needed support systems. According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, throughout the US, only 30 affordable housing units are available on average per 100 low-income families. In certain states like Florida, California, and Nevada, this situation is more dire, with only 27, 21, and 15 affordable housing units available per 100 families, respectively (Tanvi Misra, Citylab). An inability to afford housing leads to a cycle of unsuitable living conditions, eviction, homelessness, health consequences, lack of proper education, and much more.

A view of an affordable housing complex in Santa Monica, CA. CC Image courtesy of Calderoliver on Wikimedia Commons.

Many of the to-be-cut programs allow for more affordable, properly functioning, and stable housing situations for low-income households, permitting families to set down roots, integrate wholly into the local education system, and create key relationships with neighbors. These processes have lasting positive effects not only on their individual prospects, but on the community as a whole. A loss to HUD funding will slow or reverse many of these key benefits that many low-income and marginalized groups rely on for betterment and upward mobility.

 

Morgan Olsen
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Gov. Walker’s New Budget Proposal Includes Funding to Fight Homelessness

Street Pulse, Wisconsin’s Homeless/Marginalized Newspaper, recently reported exciting news surrounding Governor Walker’s 2017-2019 Executive Budget: the proposed state budget will include major funding and program developments that will directly impact, and possibly improve, homelessness and housing scarcity in Wisconsin (Street Pulse).

As the article in the March 2017 issue shares, for the first time in 25 years there will be an increase in funding directed towards fighting homelessness.

Governor Scott Walker, pictured here, and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch recently proposed increased funding for homelessness prevention in the Wisconsin 2017-2019 Executive Budget. CC Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Highlights of the budget include:

  1. $500,000 per year in TANF funds for intensive case management services for homeless families within homeless shelters – services will focus on financial counseling, school enrollment, professional networking, and enrollment for unemployed or underemployed individuals in W2 or FSET programs
  2. Piloting of prioritization of Housing Choice Vouchers for the chronically homeless – pilot program will give priority for housing vouchers to individuals who are deemed chronically homeless, hopefully curbing homelessness rates
  3. $660,800 yearly expansion of Open Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) to five additional counties – program focuses on serving mentally ill patients following release from prison so they may more easily adapt to life after serving sentences, thus decreasing risk for homelessness
  4. Provide $75,000 in funds for pilot homeless employment program based on Albuquerque’s “Better Way” initiative – pilot will provide homeless individuals with work experience and routine through municipal jobs like park maintenance
  5.  Mend Wisconsin’s transitional housing statute – remedy will ease the process of granting funds to support homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing
  6. Create Homeless Services Coordinator position within the Department of Health Services – Coordinator will work with homeless agencies and municipalities to develop a waiver program for homeless housing transition; waiver program will support housing searches, tenant training, and appropriate documentation so as to ensure successful housing placement for homeless individuals

These proposed tenants of the new 2017-2019 budget provide a stronger support system for homeless individuals and those grappling with the housing epidemic currently occurring in America. Furthermore, this framework allows for a wider safety net for those facing eviction in the state of Wisconsin, like those Matthew Desmond worked with in Milwaukee.

 

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Program

 

To learn more about Street Pulse newspaper and it’s unique approach to combating homelessness in Madison, check out this article by the Isthmus.

 

Awards & Honors for Evicted

Last week, it was announced that Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City had won the distinguished Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction. This prestigious honor, was only the most recent in a slew of awards, honors, and distinctions that the book has received in the last several months.

In this piece, we would like to expound upon the wonderful success of this year’s Go Big Read text. Here are a few of the most exciting awards, honors, distinctions, and praise for Matthew Desmond’s work.

AWARDS

800-CEO-READ Business Book Award — Shortlist 2016 — Books can help create more humane, diverse, modern, and effective businesses, stronger communities, and a better world. The 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards exist to recognize the best books in the business genre every year, and all the people who help bring them to life. Categories include, Leadership & Strategy, Management & Workplace Culture, Marketing & Sales, Innovation & Creativity, Personal Development & Human Behavior, Current Events & Public Affairs, Narrative & Biography, and Big Ideas & New Perspectives (800ceoread.com).

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction —Winnner 2017 — The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, established in 2012, recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year and serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by the American Library Association and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals who work closely with adult readers. The winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) are announced at an event at the ALA Midwinter Meeting; winning authors receive a $5,000 cash award, and two finalists in each category receive $1,500.(ala.org).

Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award — Finalist 2016 — Connecting readers with unforgettable new stories since 1990 (barnesandnoble.com).

Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction — Finalist 2016 — The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the 81 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large (kirkusreviews.com).

L.A. Times Festival of Books, Book Prize in Current Interest – Shortlist 2017 – Since 1980, the LA Times Book Prizes have honored the previous year’s best books and their authors (latimes.com).

MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award — Award Winner 2015 — The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector (macfound.org).

National Book Critics Circle Awards — Winner 2016 — The National Book Critics Circle awards are given each March and honor the best literature published in the United States in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. These are the only national literary awards chosen by critics themselves (bookcritics.org).

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction — Winner 2017 — This biennial prize of $10,000 will go to the author of a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues which has been published in the United States during the previous two calendar years. The book should possess the qualities of intellectual rigor and importance, perspicuity of expression, and stylistic elegance conspicuous in the writings of author and economist John Kenneth Galbraith, whose four dozen books and countless other publications continue to provide an important and incisive commentary on the American social, intellectual and political scene (pen.org).

Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction — Winner 2017 — This yearly prize of $15,000 is awarded for a distinguished and appropriately documented book of nonfiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other [Pulitzer Prize] category (pulitzer.org)

Students and faculty in the Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison gather in the Sewell Social Science Building to hear Desmond speak on Nov. 2, 2016 (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison).

HONORS, DISTINCTIONS, AND PRAISE

The Boston Globe Review “There have been many well-received urban ethnographies in recent years […] Desmond’s “Evicted’’ surely deserves to takes it place among these. It is an exquisitely crafted, meticulously researched exploration of life on the margins, providing a voice to people who have been shamefully ignored — or, worse, demonized — by opinion makers over the course of decades”

Buzzfeed’s 14 Of The Most Buzzed-About Books Of 2016 “Evicted paints a detailed and heartbreaking portrait of the country’s eviction problem, and how it feeds into a cycle of poverty”

The Guardian’s Best Holiday Reads 2016 “An essential piece of reportage about poverty and profit in urban America”

The Financial Times Review “It is eloquent, too, on the harm eviction does — not just to individuals but also to communities and to the quality of civic and urban life”

The L.A. Time’s 10 Most Important Books of 2016 “Desmond, now a Harvard professor, has a close-up empathy that makes the book lasting”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Review “It is a magnificent, richly textured book with a Tolstoyan approach: telling it like it is but with underlying compassion and a respect for the humanity of each character, major or minor”

Minneapolis StarTribune Review “With a relentless realism, Desmond returns to the speed and violence of the eviction process itself — a subject that elicits his most evocative writing. He captures the humiliation of it all”

Mother Jones Evicted is a rich, empathetic feat of storytelling and fieldwork”

The New York Times Ten Best Books of 2016 “Desmond’s empathetic and scrupulously researched book reintroduces the concept of “exploitation” into the poverty debate, showing how eviction, like incarceration, can brand a person for life”

The New York Times Best Seller

The New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2016 “I’ve come to think of “Evicted” as a comet book — the sort of thing that swings around only every so often, and is, for those who’ve experienced it, pretty much impossible to forget”

The Pulitzer Prize Board “A deeply researched exposé that show[s] how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty”

Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks “Beautiful, harrowing, and deeply human, Evicted is a must read for anyone who cares about social justice in this country. I loved it”

Vice Reviews “The poverty of others brings up terrible questions of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God and what if, were your circumstances or skin colour or gender different, that could be you. Your gaze pulls away. But Desmond writes so powerfully and with such persuasive math that he turns your head back and keeps it there: Yes, it could be you”

Vulture’s 8 Books You Need to Read this Month “Living and reporting among Milwaukee’s destitute, intimately getting to know eight families as well as two landlords, Desmond toggles between the numbers and the people, focusing on the daily struggle while keeping the big picture in the frame”

 

These were just a few of the most noteworthy honors for Evicted; the positive feedback is truly astounding and we are so proud of Matthew and his work! We are eager to see what distinctions come next.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction

For a background on the themes discussed in this article, check out Part I of this two part series on gentrification, Gentrification – Understanding & Context.

The Ongoing Debate Over Gentrification

The implications of gentrification—rising housing costs and changes in neighborhood culture—have a range of impacts for those it affects, and it is often very difficult to determine if gentrification is good or bad. Often the positive effects of revitalizing poor neighborhoods exist alongside the negative, and this is where the surrounding gentrification originates.

There are many positives from gentrification: the rising popularity of a neighborhood increases amenities, with additions of modern green spaces, remodeled subway stations, and essential community centers, like libraries and recreational facilities. Heightened popularity and surging demand for housing also raises property values, augmenting overall neighborhood wealth. Meanwhile, hype attracts more stably-employed and better-educated residents, increasing the quality of local schools, reducing crime, and increasing the tax base, further allowing beautification projects and educational investment. These are wonderful assets for neighborhoods that have often struggled with securing a strong tax base, that have failed to provide basic infrastructure to residents, and that have struggling public school systems.

In recent years, the Lower East Side of New York has gentrified dramatically. The area now features a whole foods and many trendy restaurants and coffee shops.

In recent years, the Lower East Side of New York has gentrified dramatically. The area now features a Whole Foods and many trendy restaurants and coffee shops. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

However, all these benefits are also offset by a slew of downsides. Primarily of concern is the increase in property value seen with gentrification. These rising property values often set off a chain reaction of negative consequences for the neighborhood’s original residents. With drastic changes in home values, neighborhoods become less and less affordable for their long-term residents with spiking rents; meanwhile, increasing property values may tax-out homeowners with limited incomes. Pushed out of their own neighborhood, former residents—those that made the neighborhood so desirable and culturally distinct in the first place—move out, relocating to areas without community ties and support. In these more affordable neighborhoods, there may be heightened crime rates and other societal ills, leaving former residents with a reduced quality of life. Furthermore, with their displacement, the modern amenities and reduction in crime seen in their former neighborhood are left to be enjoyed by those who gentrified the area. Although some may argue that gentrification helps the “ghetto”, those who resided there fail to even profit from the positive aspects of gentrification. Simultaneously, the process also leads to an indisputable degradation in culture, tearing intricate and culturally distinct communities apart. As new groups flood in, the old guard is exiled with increasing property values, taking their cultural uniqueness with them. The irony here is that those who created the “hip neighborhood” to begin with—the community that so many gentrifiers “appreciated” for its particular uniqueness—leave, taking their culturally distinctive characteristics with them. All that is left behind is the culture of the gentrifiers themselves.

Clearly these complex consequences of gentrification, both positive and negative, add a layer of intricacy to the discussion. However, the debate is especially complicated and heated because of the impossibility of separating issues of race and class from the process. It is the wealthy, and typically white, that flock into the neighborhoods of the moment, dislocating low-income, long-standing residents, usually immigrants and people of color. Given the economic and racial implications of gentrification, as one writer stated, perhaps arguments and discussions about gentrification are really “about who deserves to live in a city” and who does not (Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker).

The complexities of race, class, and ethnicity add a particular intensity to the topic and are imperative to consider during debate.

Gentrification in Madison

These issues have been raised and contemplated here in Madison, WI. During my time in Madison, several new luxury apartment buildings have been constructed, including Hub Madison, The James East, Ovation 309, and other sparkling properties around the capitol. In 2013 alone, there were “$347 million worth of new development in the city of Madison” and “nearly two-thirds, some $223 million, [were] apartment projects”(Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). These figures are astounding considering that in St. Paul, Minnesota’s 2nd ward, which is similar in composition to Madison’s downtown area, there was only $91.4 million worth of total development in the same year (Pioneer Press). Thus, the sudden large supply of luxury rentals in a concentrated area of downtown seems a bit concerning. And, the price of these new rentals is astounding, especially considering that Madison is a city that is distinctively populated by college kids and lower- and middle-class locals.

The view down University Ave. in Madison before the construction of Hub Madison and The James East.

What is driving this residential development? With the influx of increasingly well-employed young professionals into the Madison area, especially with the recent shift of the region to a tech and start-up hub with the likes of EatStreet and Epic calling the Madison area home, there has been increasing demand for downtown housing. With well-educated and well-funded young professionals seeking access to nightlife, work, and leisure in “hip” neighborhoods, areas like Willy Street, Tenney-Lapham, North-East Campus, and East Washington Street have become increasingly popular (Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). And like with most cases of gentrification, the increased demand for residences in these neighborhoods has been driving monetary and cultural change in these regions.

Epic Systems has been hiring many young professionals who are seeking residences in the downtown Madison area. CC Image courtesy of Mandy Aalderink on Wikimedia Commons.

Property values and rents have been rising in the downtown area and many advocates are concerned that these changes will begin to push longtime residents out. For instance, a recent draft report from Madison’s Housing Strategy Committee has found that “as rents rise and vacancy rates fall, even moderate-income households are [now] being priced out of Madison’s rental market.” It states that “nearly half of Madison renters are now considered ‘housing cost burdened,’ meaning they are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income to their landlord” (Mike Ivey, The Cap Times). With rising rent burdens, many lower-income renters may have to look outside their neighborhoods for more affordable options as young professionals flood in. For instance, single mother Life Hardyman is concerned she will be unable to find an affordable home in her former neighborhood after a brief absence from the city—her previous apartment’s rent had inflated over $300 since she first moved to Williamson Street several years ago (Nathan J. Comp, The Isthmus). These steep increases in rent may push many out of their original neighborhoods.

At the same time, the cultural uniqueness of the hip and now gentrifying areas are at stake with cost spikes. In the Willy Street neighborhood, long-term residents speak of the demographic shift that is coupled with the area’s gentrification. Now Willy Street is “so desirable it’s become dominated by white, educated, alternative-types with means” and “[it’s] morphing into a socioeconomic mono-culture” (Nathan J. Comp, The Isthmus). Others have concerns over Madison’s State Street area, where gritty college locales have been increasingly replaced with minimalist store fronts, trendy coffee shops, and expensive grab-and-go restaurants.

The pricing and cultural shift in Madison is concerning, however, many of these changes have also brought positives into the neighborhoods. Violent crimes are down to their lowest level in 15 years, with only 209 crimes per 100,000 persons (US News). Amenities have increased, like a new central public library and spacious grocery stores. State Street and East Campus Mall are cleaner and more modern. The benefits are astounding.

Yet, we must ask the question, who is benefiting from these developments? Long-term or new residents?

San Francisco’s Mission District attracted young professionals in the last 10 years with its funky murals and distinct culture. CC Image courtesy of Jay Galvin on Flickr.

Gentrification & Eviction

It is integral to consider how gentrification and its consequences may impact eviction rates. Although evictions have remained relatively constant in Madison despite rent increases, an article published by the New York Times found that nationwide, evictions soar with rent increases. For instance in San Francisco, despite being under rent control, rents in the gentrifying Mission District have ballooned. Studios are going for nearly $3,000 a month; one bedrooms for nearly $4,000 (Carol Pogash, The New York Times). At the same time Mission District eviction rates have spiked and many locals were forced to relocate. On the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project‘s graphic of San Francisco evictions, the Mission District is in red—the worst.

In Milwaukee, where this year’s Go Big Read text, Evicted, is focused, gentrification, and thus rent hikes, are occurring as well. These cost changes may be contributing to evictions. From 2010 to 2013, evictions increased 10% in the city (Shaila Dewan, The New York Times) while 12.1% of the city’s lower tracts gentrified (Joe Peterangelo, Public Policy Forum Blog). Given that gentrification and eviction disproportionately affect lower-income neighborhoods, it seems convincing that the rise in evictions and the simultaneous gentrification of low income regions are related. Although Milwaukee’s rate of gentrification is minimal in comparison to figures seen in other major cities, it does give cause for concern if the trend continues gaining momentum.

Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood has gentrified in recent years. CC Image courtesy of Fox6 Milwaukee on Flickr.

Conclusion

Obviously gentrification is a complex issue in American cities today. It is important to consider the many intricacies of the matter and discuss the topic with an open mind as it continues to occur throughout our diverse neighborhoods.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Gentrification – Understanding & Context

Gentrification – Understanding & Context is Part I of a two part series on gentrification and its consequences. Stay tuned for Part II: Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction.

What is gentrification?

Gentrification is the process by which more affluent people (generally demographically young and white) settle in an urban neighborhood (typically populated by low-income residents and people of color), pushing property values and housing costs up and driving a complete change in neighborhood character and culture. The dramatic rise of housing costs and the overwhelming shift in neighborhood personality often drive low-income, long-time residents out of their own community.

Gentrification is a term that is oftentimes is “used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders” (PBS). Many critics go so far as to liken the process of gentrification to colonialism, the well known practice in which one group subjugates another, displacing the ‘lower’ group in the process (Zak Cheney Rice, .Mic). Although many aspects of gentrification do seem to mirror colonialism, and many label the process as a driving force behind the dissolution of culture,  “the effects of gentrification are complex and contradictory, and its real impact varies” (PBS).

A History of Gentrification

Gentrification is a distinctly modern phenomenon, first recognized in the later half of the 20th century. It has truly come to the forefront in urban areas in the last 25 years.

British sociologist Ruth Glass described the process in 1964, noting the sudden influx of middle class, young professionals into the London neighborhood of Islington, an area that was known for its working class roots and West Indian immigrant population (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Playing off the term “gentry”, Glass encompassed the current concept of the process into a single word, “gentrification”, instilling into the phrase both high-class connections and allusions to change.

Aerial view of the Olympic Park and the Stratford neighborhood of London, which has undergone major redevelopment and gentrification in recent years.

Aerial view of the Olympic Park and the Stratford neighborhood of London, which has undergone major redevelopment and gentrification in recent years. CC Image courtesy of EG Focus on Wikimedia Commons.

Although Glass developed the idea of gentrification in London several decades ago, the term still applies to many portions of the city. London in recent years has seen the revitalization, so to speak, of many city center locations and regions on the fringe of the urban core, with more and more educated, young business professionals seeking easy access to work and nightlife. The neighborhood of Shoreditch in East London experienced a massive wave of gentrification in the past ten years and there has been significant backlash against rising property values and living costs. Many locals have been pushed out, and the particular East London grittiness – which Shoreditch was always known for – has been replaced by trendy coffee shops and even a cold cereal bar. My own former neighborhood of Stratford, another East London locale, seems to be on the same track. Stratford—where I lived from January 2016 to June 2016—is one of the best examples of a modern age “melting pot”. The region transitioned from an industrial hub in the mid-1900s to an ethnically diverse enclave with an impressive mixture of cultures and nationalities. Still today, walking down the street you will find diverse cuisines and people of all backgrounds. However, gentrification had already begun before my arrival, particularly with the development of the area in lieu of the 2012 Olympics. With more modern structures came influxes of educated, young professionals and measurable change. Even in conversation with my former boss, who lived there only a few years before me, it is evident that Stratford has changed dramatically: dingy old sectors have been razed, malls have been built, a new tube station designed, ethnic gems destroyed, and crime reduced. In attempts to court whiter and more affluent young residents, new, modern buildings and amenities are constantly under development. As a result, housing prices have risen and many locals are being forced further eastward. Like Shoreditch, the neighborhood is in jeopardy of losing its cultural diversity due to soaring housing costs. However, at the same time, many residents, both new and long-term, are heralding some changes: nearly all regard the addition of green spaces, development of reliable transportation, and reduction in violence, as a positive, making the area is better for everyone. Yet, these positives are often times at odds with the negatives associated with gentrification in the region. The complex story of Stratford highlights the diverse and often times dueling consequences of gentrification.

The Lower East Side, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, was one of the last portions of Manhattan to gentrify.

The Lower East Side, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, was one of the last portions of Manhattan to gentrify. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

In the United States, as well, gentrification has been a strong force in the later half of the 20th century through recent years. The origins of gentrification are often found in the 1960s during the push for renewal throughout urban areas and the ongoing drive to cut crime and revitalize poorer neighborhoods of cities. The removal of blighted buildings, the addition of modern conveniences, and the decline of violence and drug use not only made neighborhoods throughout American cities better for their own residents during this time period, but also attracted outsiders (Nyesha Zenetta Maughn).

In New York for instance, over the course of the late 20th century, crime rates dropped dramatically—today, crime is at only 19% of its 1990 level (Thomas Rogers, Salon). Coupled with redevelopment of lower Manhattan and other districts, the affluent began to flock to the city, building up nearly every corner of the island. Areas like SoHo, the Lower East Side, and Flatiron are what they are today—sophisticated hubs for culture, shopping, dining, and living—because of stronger policing tactics and strategic urban renewal projects. The urban revitalization and crime abatement obviously had major positive effects for the city and the new residents. However, what happened to lifelong residents as their rent prices began to soar? What happened to their communities and distinct cultures as the new moved in and the old moved out? Given these complex consequences, many have asked if it is possible to make neighborhoods safer and more modern, without attracting more affluent residents and threatening specific cultural enclaves (The Dirt, Aaron King).

SoHo developed rapidly after an influx of educated professionals and artists in the 1990s.

SoHo developed rapidly after an influx of educated professionals and artists in the 1990s. CC Image courtesy of Fuzzy Images on Flickr.

But, then again, perhaps reduction in crime rates and the push for redevelopment was not the sole factor contributing to gentrification in major cities from the 1990s until today. In fact, a “1976 study by the Urban Land Institute”—even before crime rates declined and renewal peaked—”found that nearly half of the 260 cities [surveyed] with a population over 50,000 had undergone gentrification” (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Therefore, gentrification seems to have appeared in cities before major changes in the urban landscape occurred. This possibly suggests that there was a preference shift for the American middle class and the young. It seems that in the 1960s, educated, young professionals and artists had “an increasing desire for the kind of cultural and intellectual pursuits which are generally found only in the central cities—performing arts, museums, libraries, seminars, etc.” (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Their shift in priorities led them to move to cities, driving demand and rent up, displacing locals.

The Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg was representative of the working class roots of the neighborhood in the mid 1900s.

The Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg was representative of the working class roots of the neighborhood in the mid 20th century. Since then, many young professionals have flooded into the area. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

Whether a push for urban renewal, the reduction in crime rates, or the shift in young professional housing preferences, there is no doubt that gentrification was and still is pervasive. Gentrification has been widespread in locations such as San Francisco, which has the highest housing prices in the country; the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn; and Boston (Zak Cheney Rice, .Mic). In Williamsburg, rent prices have soared over 75% since 1990, with costs on average increasing 6.8% per year (Jessica Dailey, Curbed). To put this in perspective, when my grandmother grew up in Williamsburg in the 1940s, her parents’ 3-bedroom garden-level apartment would have cost roughly $900 in today’s real money. In 2017, a 3-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg goes for $4,000. This increase in housing costs seems excessive to many.

What’s Next?

Clearly gentrification has historically had widespread impacts in terms of housing costs and displacement of people and culture in urban places—and these impacts continue today. However, what has yet to be explored is how gentrification perhaps impacts our own community and the people we met in Matthew Desmond’s book, Evicted.

More to come on these topics next week in Part II: Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

Williamsburg, Brooklyn is ubiquitous with gentrification.

The Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn is ubiquitous with gentrification. CC Image courtesy of LWYang on Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Links between Race & Eviction in Dane County

On the UW campus, the lunch hour tends to be a sacred refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a beloved time to sit and relax for students, professionals, and professors alike—an hour of time carved out between classes, studying, grant writing, emails, or intensive research to enjoy a pb&j, a food cart delicacy, or a State Street find. I often find myself chatting with a friend with pork buns in hand on Library Mall, relishing in the moment I have to forget about the stress of my day.

Pedestrians stop to purchase lunch or a quick snack from a number of food vendor carts set up along a walkway in Library Mall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on Sept. 30, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

The lunch rush at the food trucks on library mall. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

However, last month, professors, students, and community members sacrificed this meal time for a very worthy cause: to learn more about the eviction crisis in Dane County.

Evicted in Dane County: A Panel Discussion on the Relationship Between Eviction and Housing Vulnerability, an event co-sponsored by the UW Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the Go Big Read Program, was held in Memorial Union on Thursday, October 27. Over the lunch hour, the panel provided an opportunity to discuss the interconnections of race and eviction in our own backyard. Speakers included Rob Dicke, the Executive Director of Dane County Housing Authority (DCHA); Brenda Konkel, the Executive Director of the Tenant Resource Center (TRC); Heidi Wegleitner, District 2 County Supervisor and attorney at Legal Action of Wisconsin; and Mitch, an Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of the Neighborhood Law Clinic (NLC) at UW-Madison.

The panel was held in lieu of recent findings of a study by six UW-Madison graduate students and Revel Sims, an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. The Dane County study, titled “Evicted in Dane County, Wisconsin: A Collaborative Examination of the Housing Landscape” reflected similar findings to the Milwaukee Area Renter’s Survey (MARS), which was conducted by Evicted author Matthew Desmond. Sims et al.’s research overwhelmingly found that “race is the most important factor in explaining evictions in Dane County,” with “most non-white neighborhoods showing rates well above the county average” (Doug Erickson, madison.com).

The study resulted from a collaborative effort between Sims and his students and the Tenant Resource Center (TRC) this past summer. The team interviewed and worked with key actors, like lawyers and tenants, and also accumulated eviction data in Dane County from the past 15 years. With such intensive and well-rounded research, the work provided significant insight into the Madison rental market and eviction situation on the basis of race and income.

Dane County, Wisconsin.

Dane County, Wisconsin.

Sims and his team found that there were 40,439 eviction court cases in Dane County from 2000 to 2015 alone, with an average of 2,527 cases per year (Evicted in Dane County, Wisconsin). Among these evictions, the top six block groups (“neighborhoods” so to speak) leading in eviction rates were among those with the most proportion of minority residents. As Wisconsin Public Radio shares, nine out of ten of the “most nonwhite neighborhoods in the county have an eviction filing rate well above average for block clusters between 600 and 3,000 people” (Avory Brookins, WPR). For instance, the block named Allied Drive, which is on the southwestern edge of Lake Monona, had the second most evictions in the 15 year period, with a total of 1,215 evictions; Allied Drive also had the second most non-white population, with 78.04% of the residents identified as non-white. Meanwhile, neighborhoods like Southdale/East Badger Road and Leopold claimed the seventh and eighth highest eviction rates in the city—between the two alone, there were 1,550 evictions in a 15 year period. Like the Allied Drive neighborhood, Southdale and Leopold blocks were also overwhelmingly non-white in population, with the second and third most non-white residents in the Madison area, respectively.

The sight of an eviction notice is more common for people of color than whites in Dane County.

The sight of an eviction notice is more common for people of color than whites in Dane County.

Most upsetting, however, is how the research notes not only the ongoing positive correlation between eviction and race, but also how eviction may provide a means to upholding neighborhood racial segregation. As the researchers explain, “block groups with the greatest number of evictions are often found directly adjacent to block groups that have some of the highest percentages of non-white residents”. This may suggest that “eviction may serve as a means to ‘police’ the boundaries between different communities and thus contribute to the overall pattern of racial segregation” (Evicted in Dane County, Wisconsin).

At the event, panelists delved deeper into the report’s findings and discussed the real world realities of overwhelming non-white evictions in the Madison area. Konkel, of the TRC, witnesses the housing difficulties of people of color first hand, sharing that her organization serves “50 to 60 percent people of color in [its] programs”. However, as she notes, considering Dane County is only around 15% non-white, the figures suggest that housing instability unjustly affects people of color more than whites (Avory Brookins, WPR). Her reality firmly supports Sims et al.’s data.

Eviction in dane county panelists

Panelists share their insight to the eviction situation in Dane County on October 27, 2016.

Meanwhile, panelists also grappled with the causes of non-white eviction levels. Some pointed to the unjust advantage landlords have in the legal system. Panelist Wegleitner said “the state court system’s online database, known as CCAP, is ‘a huge problem’ for many people trying to find housing because landlords often use the information to screen potential tenants” (Doug Erickson, madison.com). Eviction notices tend to be problematic because they remain in the system, visible to future landlords, even if the case was dropped or thrown out. This can lead to long-term housing difficulties for tenants, especially those of color who are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system; housing becomes more tenuous and eviction more likely. Other structural and social issues can also push people of color into poverty and, as a result, high levels of eviction.

Overall, Sims and the panelists shared that they were not surprised that the housing system is racially biased. As Sims shared in his own words, “we have a long history of racism in housing in this country” and “some of our most important legislation emerged to prevent it.” However, “to think it has gone away because of the 1968 Fair Housing Act[,] is ludicrous.” (Doug Erickson, madison.com).

Clearly much work still needs to be done to change the nature of the housing market for the better, especially here in our own backyard.

For more information on Revel Sims and his students’ findings, please check out their study, here.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

(Cover photo credit: Fibonacci Blue on Flickr)

 

Art and Go Big Read: How Curriculum, Creativity, and Evicted Intersect on Campus

This week Wisconsin School of Business students and the Go Big Read program partnered to harness art as a means to further investigate the ideas presented in Go Big Read social justice texts. The result was 20 unique pieces of art, aimed to address social issues.

LEAD students creating their prints in Wheelhouse Studios.

LEAD students creating their prints in Wheelhouse Studios.

LEAD focused on printmaking as a way of securing social change, in partnership with the Go Big Read program

LEAD focused on printmaking as a way of securing social change.

Students part of the LEAD Course: Principles in Leadership, Ethics, Authenticity, and Development (an introductory program for freshman students directly admitted to the Business School) throughout the  semester have “engaged in social entrepreneurship projects aimed at helping solve societal problems” (Angela Richardson, Program Coordinator). One of the main focuses of the course was the integration of Go Big Read texts Just Mercy and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Art created by LEAD students in partnership with the Go Big Read Program.

Art created by LEAD students.

Reading these texts as part of their curriculum, students were asked throughout the semester “to make an effort to identify the major themes and important takeaways” of the books, as they related to social justice and inequalities (bus.wisc.edu). Noting striking statistics, imagery, and more, “the information [students] gathered and the ideas they generated were then used as inspiration” for the artistic project.

Earlier this week, in Memorial Union’s Wheelhouse Studios, all this prep and brainstorming came to fruition. Drawing on inspiration from historical and current social justice movement posters and evoking their own knowledge from the texts, all 120 students implemented their creativity, collaboratively hand-making 20 beautiful posters.

The project not only allows “students to practice a set of skills that are useful in both business and in life – collaboration, analysis, communication, leadership, creative thinking, and empathy, among others [–]” but, it also gives first year students the opportunity to grapple with challenging social issues like mass incarceration and housing instability in American today.

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Art created by LEAD students in partnership with the Go Big Read Program.

Furthermore, “by working together in small groups to design and create their own posters, they add their voices to the on-going dialogue around these issues”, contributing to a more aware and concerned campus community (bus.wisc.edu).

We are eager to see what the next set of LEAD students creates in partnership with the Go Big Read program!

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office