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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

4.7 out of 5 stars 3,446 ratings

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Product details

  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 685 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1432843389
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1432843380
  • Customer reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 3,446 ratings

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Most helpful customer reviews on 4.7 out of 5 stars 1,411 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The 'Hood is Actually Not So Good
21 April 2016 - Published on
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4.0 out of 5 stars The 'Hood is Actually Not So Good
Reviewed in the United States on 21 April 2016
I have been involved with low income housing in Milwaukee for over three decades as a landlord and as an attorney for landlords and tenants. I know the neighborhoods and characters in this book all too well. If you want insight into poor people’s lives as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads, you should buy this book. The other reviews are right about how gripping those stories are. But if you are a graduate of Trump University and think you’ll get some insight into how to make obscene profits by renting to the poor you’ll find anecdotes but no real verified research about the business of landlording. Most significantly, you will not learn the truth that bringing evictions totally destroyed the rental business of Sherrena, the leading landlord protagonist.

Strangely, though Desmond interviewed 30 landlords he only focuses on two. One is Tobin, a mobile home park operator on Milwaukee’s south side, which is largely white and Hispanic. Tobin indeed makes a lot of money but that is because he does not have to maintain or repair 95% of the “dwellings” in his park. Tobin rents out a concrete slab with utility connections and the tenants buy or bring their own trailers and pay their own utilities. As owners they are responsible for the exterior and interior condition of their dwelling. Only 5% of the trailers are owned by the park and rented to tenants as a living unit. So Tobin is a landlord only in the sense that you might have a landlord this summer when you drive your Winnebago to a Jellystone Park and pay rent for the parking pad and utility hookups.

Then we have Sherrena who with her husband runs about 18 buildings (mostly two-family flats) in the African-American neighborhoods on the north side of Milwaukee. In a chapter titled “The ‘Hood is Good” Desmond blithely accepts Sherrena’s boast that she has a net worth of $2 million and nets $10,000 a month in rental income. Desmond is honest in portraying the many difficulties Sherrena has in collecting rent from her struggling tenants but he doesn’t do the background research (available from local court records) about the many thousands of dollars in unpaid rents and damaged units which sort of cut into profits a little bit.

As to her supposed net worth of $2 million, that averages out to $111,000 for each of these 18 ghetto properties - certainly far more than some of the real dumpy ones are worth – but the author does not research the amounts of the recorded mortgages against these properties (ranging between $64,000 and $119,200) which further greatly reduce the claimed net worth. That would have been revealed in the many foreclosures filed against Sherrena’s properties which started within a year after Desmond’s visit to Milwaukee.

So when this book came out in 2016 the curious reader might want to know: if the ‘hood is good for the landlord how much better has it gotten since the author did his study in 2009? Research so far shows that not one of Sherrena’s properties remains in her ownership. Starting in 2010 many were bulldozed, went into city ownership via foreclosure for nonpayment of real estate taxes or today sit as haunting, blighted eyesores. A few were foreclosed by lenders, were fixed up and are under new ownership.

Evictions by Sherrena ended in the year 2010. So did her non-existent profit. She joins many small-time under-capitalized landlords who have gone bust in Milwaukee and elsewhere since the Great Recession started in 2008 with the bursting of the housing bubble.

Please note that I still give the book 4 stars. Its significant defects in reporting on the “profit” aspect of its subtitle are outweighed by the important and detailed research on the effects of eviction in creating and perpetuating poverty. A better and expanded housing voucher program for low income tenants is much needed. Landlords nationwide should join Matt Desmond’s call for its implementation.
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1,118 people found this helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 40 Years experience as a blue-collar, small town landlord
13 May 2018 - Published on
168 people found this helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacking rigor
30 April 2018 - Published on
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83 people found this helpful