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Books & Authors

Fair Housing Month

On April 11, 1968, the Fair Housing Act first made housing discrimination illegal in the United States. Fifty-six years later, activists are still working to make the Act’s promises a reality for everyone. Check out these books to learn more about fair housing and housing justice.

Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing by Diana Lind
Over the past century, American demographics and social norms have shifted dramatically. If trends continue, we should expect to see more people living alone, later-in-life marriages, fewer (and smaller) new families, and a majority-minority population that skews older and older. Americans' daily life and preferences have also changed, whether by choice or by force, to become more virtual, more mobile, and less stable. But housing today largely looks the same as it did in 1950. In Brave New Home, Diana Lind shows why the government-subsidized suburbs full of single-family houses are bad for us and our planet, and details the new efforts underway that better reflect the way we live now, to ensure that the way we live next is both less lonely and more affordable.

Evicted : Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The author takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. 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.

Excluded: How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don't See by Richard D Kahlenberg
The last, acceptable form of prejudice in America is based on class and executed through state-sponsored economic discrimination, which is hard to see because it is much more subtle than raw racism. While the American meritocracy officially denounces prejudice based on race and gender, it has spawned a new form of bias against those with less education and income. Millions of working-class Americans have their opportunity blocked by exclusionary snob zoning. These government policies make housing unaffordable, frustrate the goals of the civil rights movement, and lock in inequality in our urban and suburban landscapes. Through moving accounts of families excluded from economic and social opportunity as they are hemmed in through new redlining that limits the type of housing that can be built, Richard Kahlenberg vividly illustrates why America has a housing crisis. He also illustrates why economic segregation matters since where you live affects access to transportation, employment opportunities, decent health care, and good schools. He shows that housing choice has been socially engineered to the benefit of the affluent, and, that astonishingly the most restrictive zoning is found in politically liberal cities where racial views are more progressive.

Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America's Broken Housing Systems by Jenny Schuetz
Fixer-Upper assesses how the broad set of local, state, and national housing policies affect people and communities. It does more than describe how yesterday's policies led to today's problems. It proposes practical policy changes than can make stable, decent-quality housing more available and affordable for all Americans in all communities. Fixing systemic problems that arose over decades won't be easy, in large part because millions of middle-class Americans benefit from the current system and feel threatened by potential changes. But Fixer-Upper suggests ideas for building political coalitions among diverse groups that share common interests in putting better housing within reach for more Americans, building a more equitable and healthy country.

Gentrifier: A Memoir by Anne Elizabeth Moore
This is a memoir of art, gender, work, and survival. Part investigation, part comedy of a vexing city, and part love letter to girlhood, Gentrifier examines capitalism, property ownership, and whiteness, asking if we can ever really win when violence and profit are inextricably linked with victory.

High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing by Ben Austen
Braids personal narratives, city politics, and national history to tell the timely and epic story of Chicago's Cabrini-Green, America's most iconic public housing project.

Homesick: Why Housing Is Unaffordable and How We Can Change It by Brendan O'Brien
Nobody who sits in traffic on Sedona, Arizona's main stretch or stands shoulder-to-shoulder in its many souvenir shops would call it a ghost town. Neither would anyone renting a room for $2,000 a month or buying a house for a half-million dollars. And yet the people who built this small town and made it a community are being pushed further and further out. This situation has been abetted by the direct actions of developers, politicians, and existing homeowners who have sought to drive up the cost of housing. But it's mostly happened due to a society-wide refusal to see housing as anything more than real estate, another product available to the highest bidder.

Sunbelt Blues: The Failure of American Housing by Andrew Ross
Today, a minimum-wage earner can afford a one-bedroom apartment in only 28 out of 3,140 counties in America. The single worst place in the United States to look for affordable housing is Osceola County, Florida. Once the main approach to Disney World, where vacationers found lodging on their way to the Magic Kingdom, the fifteen-mile Route 192 corridor in Osceola has become a site of shocking contrasts. At one end, absentee investors snatch up foreclosed properties to turn into extravagant vacation homes for affluent visitors, destroying affordable housing in the process. At the other, underpaid theme park workers, displaced families, and disabled and elderly people subsisting on government checks are technically homeless, living crammed into dilapidated, roach-infested motels or even in tent camps in the woods. Through visceral, frontline reporting from the motels and encampments dotting central Florida, renowned sociologist Andrew Ross exposes the overlooked housing crisis sweeping America's suburbs and rural areas, where residents suffer ongoing trauma, poverty, and nihilism.

The Affordable City: Strategies for Putting Housing Within Reach (And Keeping It There) by Shane Phillips
From Los Angeles to Boston and Chicago to Miami, US cities are struggling to address the twin crises of high housing costs and household instability. Debates over the appropriate course of action have been defined by two poles: building more housing or enacting stronger tenant protections. These options are often treated as mutually exclusive, with support for one implying opposition to the other. Shane Phillips believes that effectively tackling the housing crisis requires that cities support both tenant protections and housing abundance. He offers readers more than 50 policy recommendations, beginning with a set of principles and general recommendations that should apply to all housing policy. The remaining recommendations are organized by what he calls the Three S's of Supply, Stability, and Subsidy. Phillips makes a moral and economic case for why each is essential and recommendations for making them work together. There is no single solution to the housing crisis--it will require a comprehensive approach backed by strong, diverse coalitions.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
Richard Rothstein has painstakingly documented how American cities, from San Francisco to Boston, became so racially divided. Rothstein describes how federal, state, and local governments systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning, public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities, subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs, tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation, and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. He demonstrates that such policies still influence tragedies in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

 

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