Evicted: The Socio-Legal Case for the Right to Housing - A Book Review of Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown Publishers, New York, 2016)
18 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2017 Last revised: 26 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 12, 2017
Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a triumphant work that provides the missing socio-legal data needed to prove why America should recognize housing as a human right. This Essay argues that Desmond’s mostly federal legal prescriptions are insufficient to help all Americans realize the full promise of the human right to housing. American cities should also enact local ordinances that legitimate new housing arrangements in order to fully realize the human right to housing. Part I argues that Evicted’s stories show that the law operates differently in poor housing markets than in traditional markets, and that poor residents are differently situated in low-income housing markets based upon their age, sex, gender, race, and ethnicity. Evicted also reveals that poor tenants and their landlords make informal bargains that often undermine the goals of numerous housing-related laws and sacrifice poor residents’ dignity. Part II builds on Desmond’s legal and policy prescriptions by providing examples of how cities can codify the right to housing at the local level through resolutions and ordinances that legitimate more equitable housing arrangements. Part II further asserts that the right to housing is a legal tool that can help localities manage and effectively internalize the mounting economic and social costs of increasing inequality in American housing markets.
Keywords: Matthew Desmond, Evicted, Human Right to Housing, Fair Housing Act, Landlord Tenant/Law, Nuisance Law, Property Law, Implied Warranty of Habitability, Fair Housing Law, Local Government, Homelessness, Sociology of Law, Housing Choice Vouchers, Housing Court, Tiny Homes for the Homeless, Milwaukee
JEL Classification: K1, K10, K11, R38, R21, R31, R31, Z13, Y3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation