The 2018 book Dream Hoarders connects the actions of the top 20% in income to where they live and how they control who lives near them. Excerpts from the book:
The physical segregation of the upper middle class noted in chapter 2 is, for the most part, not the result of the free workings of the housing market. This inverse ghettoization is a product of a complex web of local rules and regulations regarding the use of land. The rise of “exclusionary zoning,” designed to protect the home values, schools, and neighborhoods of the affluent, has badly distorted the American property market. As Lee Anne Fennell points out, these rules have become “a central organizing feature in American metropolitan life.” (102)
Zoning ordinances, which began life as explicitly racist tools, have become important mechanisms for incorporating class divisions into urban physical geographies. This is not a partisan point. If anything, zoning is more exclusionary in liberal cities. (103)
So, those of us with high earnings are able to convert our income into wealth through the housing market, with assistance from the tax code. We then become highly defensive – almost paranoid – about the value of our property and turn to local policies, especially exclusionary zoning ordinances, to fend off any encroachment by lower-income citizens and even the slightest risk to the desirability of our neighborhoods. These exclusionary processes rarely require us to confront public criticism or judgment. They take place quietly and politely in municipal offices and usually simply require us to defend the status quo. (106)
There are numerous connections in this section to earlier posts. Here are a few:
–One of the reasons Americans love suburbs is that suburban life allowed for excluding people they do not want to live near.
–There is bipartisan white suburban support for homes rather than apartments.
-Housing rarely comes up in national political conversations. It may get a few minutes at debates or occasionally come up in trying to appeal to some voters.
-Tackling this at the state (example of California) or local level is difficult (example of Naperville, Illinois and suburban New Jersey).
In sum, it is hard to understand the life of wealthier Americans without also addressing how this wealth and the opportunities that come with it are closely connected to particular locations.