We are reading a lot more these days about affordable housing, homelessness and advocacy. Below are some of our recommended reads:
by Matthew Desmond
In 2017, Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America was one of ten finalists on the National Book Awards' long list for the best nonfiction book of 2017.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has announced that Rothstein will be a speaker at its 2018 Housing Policy Forum.
The Economic Policy Institute writes that "In The Color of Law (published by Liveright in May 2017), Richard Rothstein argues with exacting precision and fascinating insight how segregation in America-the incessant kind that continues to dog our major cities and has contributed to so much recent social strife-is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state, and federal levels."
Rothstein is a former columnist for the New York Times, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, and a Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Writes the Economic Policy Institute, "Rothstein has spent years documenting the evidence that government not merely ignored discriminatory practices in the residential sphere, but promoted them."
Its review continues with "The impact has been devastating for generations of African-Americans who were denied the right to live where they wanted to live, and raise and school their children where they thought best."
In May 2017, Rothstein was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. "Rothstein's new book, The Color of Law, examines the local, state and federal housing policies that mandated segregation. He notes that the Federal Housing Administration, which was established in 1934, furthered the segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods - a policy known as 'redlining.' At the same time, the FHA was subsidizing builders who were mass-producing entire subdivisions for whites - with the requirement that none of the homes be sold to African-Americans."
Speaking with Terry Gross "The segregation of our metropolitan areas today leads ... to stagnant inequality, because families are much less able to be upwardly mobile when they're living in segregated neighborhoods where opportunity is absent," Rothstein says. "If we want greater equality in this society, if we want a lowering of the hostility between police and young African-American men, we need to take steps to desegregate."
Also in May 2017, Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic interviewed Rothstein.
by Matthew Desmond
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a brilliant, heartbreaking book, written by Matthew Desmond who takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge.
The book is just as relevant in NJ where evictions are extremely high and often lead to homelessness. Its message to take action to create a universal housing voucher program is more relevant in 2017. It is the key to ending homelessness.
The following summary is from Mr. Desmond's website.
Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.
The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.
Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.
Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.