In Oakland, an evicted renter (L) looks on as an Alameda County Sheriff Deputy prepares to post a notice of eviction on the door of an apartment where tenants defaulted on rent payments. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty
Mon, Jan 6, 2014 10:15 AM EST

Every year the rent is too damn high and paychecks stay stuck on "not enough." It's a commonly lived story that's bringing renewed focus in mainstream media on homelessness and the nation's affordable housing crisis. Now, one Harvard sociologist, Matthew Desmond, is expanding the lens by looking specifically at how housing eviction upends the lives of the urban poor. Take Milwaukee: a recent survey showed the most recent move for one in seven black residents was an eviction or other involuntary relocation; among Hispanics, fully one in four. No database exists to track evictions nationwide but Milwaukee likely highlights an underreported national trend.

Nationally, between 1991 and 2011, the number of renter households dedicating less than one-third of their income to housing costs fell by about 15 percent, while the number dedicating more than 70 percent of their income to housing costs more than doubled, to 7.56 million. At the same time, housing assistance has not been expanded to meet the growing need: today, only one in every four households that qualify for housing assistance receives it.

Desmond's research has already inspired coverage of black domestic violence victims in Pennsylvania and, leads to some common-sense policy solutions. One is, one-time grants for families experiencing temporary financial hardship. Desmond's work, according to Harvard Magazine, shows how, "poor people are forced to make choices...that middle-class Americans take for granted, and sometimes must even choose between basic needs, because they can't afford them all in the same month."

(h/t Harvard Magazine)