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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Getting Ready for Matthew Desmond’s visit

The Author Event for Go Big Read is fast approaching. In just over a week, Matthew Desmond himself will be on campus to speak about the themes in his book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, along with his continuing work on the housing and eviction issues facing the United States today.

Evicted follows the stories of eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over the course of a year and a half as they struggle find housing, pay rent, and provide for themselves and their loved ones. According to Desmond, the number of formal evictions that occur each year has soared over the last sixty years. These numbers become even higher when one factors in other “forced moves” that result from other circumstances that tenants don’t consider to be evictions. These involuntary relocation has severe consequences not just for the family itself, but also the larger community.

Desmond’s talk will take place next Tuesday, November 1, in Shannon Hall in Memorial Union at 7:00 pm.

If you are planning on driving in for the event, we recommend the public parking ramp at Lake and State streets for easy access to the venue (1.5 block walk). For other parking locations, please consult the campus map. If you are dropping off or planning on parking very close to the Union, make sure to use Park St. – Langdon St. is closed for construction.

For accessible access to Shannon Hall, please enter Memorial Union from either the west entrance on Langdon Street or the northwest entrance on Park Street, near Helen C. White hall and the beginning of the Union Terrace.

Also, please remember that Memorial Union’s east wing is currently under construction. For more information on how this may impact your evening, please see here.

Tickets for the event sold out at record speed at the time of release – all tickets are currently sold out. However, there are some fun alternatives to still be a part of the author visit event:

  1. Stand-by line – There will be a standby line at Memorial Union the night of the event should people still wish to attend. Entrance to the event will depend on venue capactity and unclaimed seats.
  2. Live webstream – For those who are unable to attend in person, Desmond’s talk will be livestreamed via a link on the main page of the Go Big Read website. You may enjoy Desmond’s talk from the comfort of home!
  3. Live stream watch events –  There will be a handful of watch events streaming the live feed around campus and in the Madison area on the night of November 1. Locations include Madison Central Library, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and College Library, to name a few. For more information on these watch events or to find one near you, please visit our events calendar.
  4. Watch online– A recording of the event will be uploaded on our site in the hours following the event for anyone who may have missed the livestream.

Please let us know if you have any questions about the event or any of the watch alternatives via email.

By Morgan Sederburg

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

Desmond’s Innovative Survey Methods to be Integrated into HUD’s American Housing Survey

As Matthew Desmond, author of this year’s Go Big Read book Evicted, began his research on eviction in the city of Milwaukee several years ago, he found that both court records and academic literature failed to answer many of his questions surrounding eviction. In his initial search for information, he “found no study – no readily available data – that addressed [his] questions” (Evicted, p. 328). This posed an obvious problem to his research and left many integral questions unanswered; and, as it turned out, he would have to find the data himself.

In need of answers, Desmond developed a groundbreaking survey, the Milwaukee Area Renters Study, or “MARS”. This comprehensive survey, which involved 1,100 tenants across the city, was overseen by our own University of Wisconsin Survey Center (UWSC), “an academic research organization that specializes in reaching understudied groups: kids in foster care, welfare recipients, the homeless” Andrew Flowers, FiveThirtyEight. With the support of the UWSC’s top-notch training program and skilled team of workers, the MARS survey had an incredible response rate. And, opposed to past research (which seemed to be asking the wrong questions about housing), the MARS survey proved to ask the right ones. All 250 questions prompted tangible responses from participants about matters involving eviction, housing, residential mobility, and urban poverty.

Milwaukee’s redeveloped river front provides a stark contrast to the city’s North Side.

The strength and quality of the MARS survey led to astonishing results, including, that 1 in 8 Milwaukee renters experienced at least one forced move within the two years prior to the survey (Evicted, p. 330).

MARS and its groundbreaking data formed the backbone for Evicted and provided for the development of a renewed discussion on housing prices, urban poverty, and much more within Wisconsin. However, MARS, too, has had a more national reach: the study’s techniques are set to be integrated into HUD’s national American Housing Survey starting in 2017.

As Desmond shares in a recent article from FiveThirtyEight, a site dedicated to hard numbers and statistical analysis on topics ranging from sports to elections, this is a major step forward for understanding eviction, poverty, housing costs, and displacement on a national level. With the integration of MARS into the HUD survey, researchers and policymakers will be able to more accurately understand the realities of poverty and eviction across the country, thus prompting a more holistic discussion of housing issues and spurring “policymakers to take [these issues] seriously” Andrew Flowers, FiveThirtyEight. As a result, much needed improvements to housing and housing costs will hopefully be made.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Program

Go Big Read’s History

It’s hard to believe that the Go Big Read program is in its eighth year.  We were honored to pay a visit to see an exhibit at Capitol Lakes that showcases the history of the program.

Curator of the exhibit, Ginny Moore Kruse, has been a valuable partner since the beginning!  Each year she (along with others) champions high quality book discussions and creative events for residents in her community.

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We are excited to hear that Capitol Lakes will (and has been) engaging with Matthew Desmond’s Evcited. Checkout a showcase event that is being held in coordination with the Wisconsin Alumni Association.

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Sheila Stoeckel

Go Big Read Program Lead

Chancellor Blank on Creating Community

Last week Chancellor Blank wrote a blog post addressing some of the difficult events that have occurred this summer both around the world and in this very state, pointing out that many of the questions these events have raised are also questions Matthew Desmond explores in “Evicted.” Read her full post below or on the Chancellor’s website here.

Creating community after a difficult summer

Posted on August 18, 2016 by Chancellor Blank

Across the country and around the world, this summer has, sadly, been filled with news of tragedy and violence, starting with killings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas. I suspect all of us have been horrified at one time or another as we’ve turned on the television.

This past weekend, there was significant unrest in Milwaukee, the largest and most diverse city in our state, as well as home to many of our students. And those who have stayed in Madison over the summer know that we’ve had our own series of controversial incidents and protests.

All of these events are likely to be on people’s minds as they return to campus to prepare for the semester ahead. Appropriately, one of this year’s themes– and the subject of our Go Big Read book, Evicted, is “what is community?”

 

At this moment, it seems particularly important to ask: How is community forged? How do communities like Milwaukee or Madison come together in the wake of violence and tragedy? How does UW-Madison do a better job engaging with our local community and our state? And how do we grapple with the changes we need to implement here on campus?

Many of us on campus have been busy over the summer, following through on our commitments to make the university more welcoming for all. We are moving forward on multiple initiatives, including the launch of a new pilot program for incoming freshmen on community building, called Our Wisconsin.

Within the next few weeks, I and others will share information about these different efforts, including the ways in which we are taking up the suggestions that came in last spring through our community proposal process. We received more than 100 ideas for improving campus climate, inspiring new programs and giving us new ways to think about expanding and modifying current efforts.

Over the summer I’ve also been holding conversations with a variety of community leaders about our community and our campus.  I have invited a number of these individuals to be part of a Community Advisory Cabinet to UW Leadership.

It must be a central part of our education efforts here at UW-Madison to ensure that our students, when they graduate, are comfortable working and living in more diverse communities.  The jobs of the 21st century and the employers who hire our students demand these skills.

Following this difficult summer, I suspect that many of us — faculty, staff, and students — will find it helpful to talk about what we’ve been watching and experiencing as these events have unfolded.  I know that I have felt deep concern and even despair.  I want to share those reactions with colleagues and friends and talk about how we move forward and find hope.

I plan to invite all the units around campus to invite their members into this conversation, if they wish to participate.  I’ll be sending out more information right before the semester about how we can do this across campus.

It is our responsibility as a university community to try and understand the world around us…and to work to create a community here that reflects our values.

Madison Schools Address Needs of Homeless Students

The most recent piece in the Wisconsin State Journal’s series on homelessness examines the relationship between a child’s insecure housing situation and their education. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1,414 students were identified as homeless throughout the 2014-15 school year in the Madison School District, and even this count is most likely lower than the actual number. Homelessness causes unique stresses for students experiencing it as anxieties about what they will eat and where they will sleep distract from the concentration needed to focus on school. Yet a review of research by the Family Housing Fund reveals that early and constant intervention by schools can minimize and reverse the effects of homelessness.

K’won Watson, a six-year-old at Hawthorne Elementary School, experienced these efforts first-hand while living with his mother and baby brother at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. When he enrolled in kindergarten in October 2015, he received school supplies and free lunches in addition to getting his school fees waived. Further assistance was provided by the district’s Transition Education Program, which was founded in 1989 and works to help homeless students. K’won received intensive reading support and was able to work with Hawthorne’s positive behavior support coach. This network of assistance provided the resources and stability K’won needed in order to concentrate in class.

Unable to find housing after exceeding the maximum amount of time families are allowed to stay at the Salvation Army shelter, K’won’s mother moved their family back to Chicago in the middle of the school year, a sadly common occurrence for students at Hawthorne Elementary. Still, the teachers and support staff there hope they were able to make a positive impact on him.

Says teacher Jani Koester, “If we’re going to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to look at the needs of the children. They have to have hope that their lives can be different.”

You can read the full article by the Wisconsin State Journal here.

Milwaukee has Nation’s Largest Monthly Rent Increase in June 2016

According to a recent study done by ABODO, Milwaukee had the nation’s largest increase in monthly rent in June of 2016. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee increased from $880/month to $1,010/month in June of 2016, which is a 15% increase in rent.

This does not mean, however, that Milwaukee’s monthly rent rates are the highest in the nation, but just that the city had the largest monthly rent increase in June. The study looked at cities across the country and their average monthly rent prices. Columbus, Ohio was close behind Milwaukee with a 13% increase in rent for one-bedroom apartments, and Charlotte, North Carolina had the biggest drop in monthly rent with a 14% decrease.

The study also found that demand for apartments in Milwaukee has increased. Milwaukee’s vacancy rates “dropped from 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 4.1 percent in the first quarter of this year,” according to an article about the study from Milwaukee’s BizTimes.

The article, entitled “Milwaukee has largest rent increase in nation, study shows,” interviewed Sam Radbil, the senior communications manager at ABODO, about reasons for Milwaukee’s recent rent increase. “What we’re seeing is Milwaukee is becoming a mini-Chicago…People are moving to Milwaukee from Chicago and it is no longer a downgrade like people had historically thought.”

Rabdil also said, “I grew up in Milwaukee and lived through the Marquette Interchange construction, but never once did I see a change in the skyline like I’m seeing now…People are starting to see what Milwaukee has to offer. Unique restaurants and bars, a rich cultural scene and actual development. That is why the rents are going up.”

The increasing cost of rent in Milwaukee, coupled with the general shortage of affordable housing, certainly feeds into the issues Matthew Desmond discusses in Evicted.

 

To read the study done by ABODO, click here.

You can read the BizTimes article entitled “Milwaukee has largest rent increase in nation, study shows” here.

 

Homeownership Tax Benefits and the Affordable Housing Crisis

The website Talkpoverty.org recently published an article that discusses the gap between what the federal government spends on rental assistance programs and homeownership tax benefits. The article states that federal rental assistance programs in 2015 cost the government $51 billion, while “two of the largest homeownership tax programs—the Mortgage Interest Deduction and the Property Tax Deduction—cost $90 billion in 2015.”

The article goes on to state that “households making over $100,000 a year received nearly 90 percent of the $90 billion spent on the two tax programs discussed above. Households making less than $50,000 got a little more than 1 percent of those benefits.”

Low-income households receive even less of a benefit from these tax programs (the article puts the average monthly figure that low-income households receive from these programs at eight cents). This stands in stark contrast to households making over $9 million annually (0.1 percent of Americans) receiving an average of $1,236 per month from the two homeownership tax programs mentioned above.

The article ends with a discussion of how we can make this system more fair for low-income households, including redirecting some of the spending on wealthy homeowners to benefit first-time homeowners, helping low-income households save for a down payment, and other policies that could help put an end to the affordable housing crisis.

To read “The Biggest Beneficiaries of Housing Subsidies? The Wealthy.,” click here.