|Barbara Fields and Matthew Desmond at
HousingWorks RI’s 2016 Fact Book Luncheon
National best-selling author Matthew Desmond joined R.I. Housing’s executive director Barbara Fields to discuss the nation’s housing challenges and Desmond’s first-hand experiences observing evicted tenants and their landlords. The discussion was featured during HousingWorks RI’s 2016 Fact Book Luncheon.
In his best-seller Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Desmond tells the powerful stories of eight families struggling to survive in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee. In doing so, he provides key insights into the importance of housing and its role in creating robust communities.
"America is the richest country with the most poverty in the world, if you want to make a dent in inequality, housing has to be a part of it,” said Desmond, who is a member of the Harvard faculty and a MacArthur Fellow. Desmond said the rising cost of housing is a burden to many of the nation's families.
Desmond also noted that only 1 in 4 households eligible for housing assistance actually receive it, despite the fact that discussions of housing typically focus on publicly-assisted housing. As a result, most poor families are left to deal with the private housing market. He highlighted the 20-year waiting list for public housing in Washington, D.C.
"We have to get serious about the affordable housing crisis. We are bleeding out. We cannot ask for band-aid fixes, because we don't have a band-aid problem,” Desmond explained. “We need to stop asking for crumbs off the table."