Goetz, Edward. New Deal Ruins: Race Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy.

Author:August, Martine
Position::Book review

Goetz, Edward. New Deal Ruins: Race Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. 256 pages. ISBN 978-0-8014-5152-2

New Deal Ruins provides a welcome and important addition to the study of public housing redevelopment and revitalization. The book tracks the rise of public housing "dismantling" in the United States since the 1970s (a trend also present in Canada, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere), and offers a compelling critique of this policy and its impacts on public housing residents. Edward Goetz is a leading scholar on American public housing, known for thoughtful and balanced work on a subject surrounded by, as he puts it, "myth and hype" (p. 23). New Deal Ruins sidesteps any sensationalism and develops a nuanced, readable, and thoroughly convincing critique of this dismantling. This work adds to a growing body of critical scholarship on public housing redevelopment that is amplifying the voices of tenants and activists who oppose the demolition of these communities and the "deconcentration" of low-income tenants. It is a must-read for urban policy makers, housing scholars, planning students, and public housing advocates.

New Deal Ruins points to three forces--racism, neoliberalism, and gentrification-- to explain the emergence of contemporary public housing demolition programs. These themes are tackled over six chapters that explore the impacts of dismantling at various scales (project, neighbourhood, city) and that weave together local stories, legal and policy histories, new qualitative and quantitative research findings, and theoretical critique. Chapter One traces the history of public housing policy in the US, in which exaggerated "loud failures" have overshadowed the "quiet successes" of a program that has safely and affordably housed thousands and thousands of Americans. Chapter Two outlines the recent history of dismantling, and the links between race, gentrification, and public housing demolition. Chapter Three examines redevelopment policy in Atlanta, Chicago, and New Orleans--three cities in which dismantling has been taken to its extreme. Chapter Four examines project-level data to demonstrate the central role of race in redevelopment, finding that African American communities have been disproportionately targeted for demolition, and that African Americans have been subject to higher rates of forced removal from their homes. Chapter Five outlines why this type of displacement is problematic...

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