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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Explained: Two housing tales, many lessons

The government’s market-based solutions in its low-income housing programmes in the 1970s impacted Black neighbourhoods, Black women on welfare, and emergent discourses on the urban “underclass”, says Taylor.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: December 3, 2019 8:17:59 am
Explained: Two housing tales, many lessons Journalist Aaron Glantz ‘Homewreckers’ is about the “bigger story about American housing that’s tortuous, confounding and ultimately enraging”. (File Photo)

Journalist Aaron Glantz remodelled his home with $8,000 that his wife and he received as part of the Obama administration’s stimulus package, also giving people employment in the process. He has now written Homewreckers, a book about the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which tells the story of, as the book’s long, blunt subtitle says, “how a gang of Wall Street kingpins, hedge fund magnates, crooked banks, and vulture capitalists suckered millions out of their homes and demolished the American Dream”. It is, according to the review of the book in The New York Times, the “bigger story about American housing that’s tortuous, confounding and ultimately enraging”.

The other book out recently, also on housing, though with a different focus and from a different era, is Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership.

Taylor covers the period in the late 1960s and early 1970s when, “federal government partnered with a real estate industry enthusiastic about exploiting a new market but refusing to bear most of the risk”.

Mismanagement, corruption, distorted incentives, and unenforced civil rights regulations were seen in what Taylor calls a system of “predatory inclusion”, which replaced the earlier system of racist exclusion.

Explained: Two housing tales, many lessons The two books present a picture of faulty government interventions in housing.

The government’s market-based solutions in its low-income housing programmes in the 1970s impacted Black neighbourhoods, Black women on welfare, and emergent discourses on the urban “underclass”, says Taylor.

Together, the two books present a picture of faulty government interventions in housing that, despite being focussed on the US, hold lessons for other parts of the world as well.

As their joint review in The NYT says, they demonstrate together “what happens when private speculators get buoyed by government largess while non-tycoons are largely left to fend for themselves”.

Also read | Why, if growth is to revive, credit flows to industry must pick up fast

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