Housing, Poverty, and the Law

Matthew Desmond, Monica Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Throughout much of the late twentieth century, social scientists and legal scholars focused considerable attention on low-income housing and landlord-tenant law. In recent years, however, interest in housing has waned, leaving many questions fundamental to the poverty debate unanswered. This article calls for a renewed focus on housing, law, and poverty, with particular attention to the housing sector where most low-income families live, unassisted: the private rental market. Surveying social-scientific research, legal analysis, and case history on affordability, access, housing conditions, forced displacement, and homelessness, this article shows how housing plays a central, crucial role in the lives of poor Americans. The poor have been central to the development of housing law, and the law itself has done much to mitigate and aggravate their poverty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-35
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
StatePublished - Nov 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


  • Environment
  • Eviction
  • Homelessness
  • Inequality
  • Residential instability


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