Last Updated on December 19, 2016, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 625
“Lamar's labor was cheap, but he knew there were better deals to be had. When the plumbing broke, the roof leaked, or rooms needed painting, savvy inner-city landlords did not phone plumbers, roofers, or painters. They relied on two desperate and on-hand labor pools: tenants themselves and jobless men.”
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“If poverty persists in America, it is not for lack of resources.”
“Our cities have become unaffordable to our poorest families, and this problem is leaving a deep and jagged scar on our next generation.”
“For almost a century, there has been broad consensus in America that families should spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Until recently, most renting families met this goal. But times have changed—in Milwaukee and across America. Every year in this country, people are evicted from their homes not by the tens of thousands or even the hundreds of thousands but by the millions.”
“Poverty was a relationship, I thought, involving poor and rich people alike. To understand poverty, I needed to understand that relationship. This sent me searching for a process that bound poor and rich people together in mutual dependence and struggle. Eviction was such a process.”
“Eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.”
“It was an old tradition: landlords barring children from their properties. In the competitive postwar housing market of the late 1940s, landlords regularly turned away families with children and evicted tenants who got pregnant."
“The Hinkstons expected more of their landlord for the money they were paying her. Rent was their biggest expense by far, and they wanted a decent and functional home in return. They wanted things to be fixed when they broke. But if Sherrena wasn’t going to repair her own property, neither were they. The house failed the tenants, and the tenants failed the house.”
"The home is the wellspring of personhood. It is where our identity takes root and blossoms, where as children, we imagine, play, and question, and as adolescents, we retreat and try. As we grow older, we hope to settle into a place to raise a family or pursue work. When we try to understand ourselves, we often begin by considering the kind of home in which we were raised.”
“Exploitation. Now, there’s a word that has been scrubbed out of the poverty debate. It is a word that speaks to the fact that poverty is not just a product of low incomes. It is also a product of extractive markets. Boosting poor people’s incomes by increasing the minimum wage or public benefits, say, is absolutely crucial. But not all of those extra dollars will stay in the pockets of the poor. Wage hikes are tempered if rents rise along with them, just as food stamps are worth less if groceries in the inner city cost more—and they do, as much as 40 percent more, by one estimate. Poverty is two-faced—a matter of income and expenses, input and output—and in a world of exploitation, it will not be effectively ameliorated if we ignore this plain fact.”
“Fewer and fewer families can afford a roof over their head. This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today, and acknowledging the breadth and depth of the problem changes the way we look at poverty. For decades, we’ve focused mainly on jobs, public assistance, parenting, and mass incarceration. No one can deny the importance of these issues, but something fundamental is missing. We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty. Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord.”