Invisible City: Poverty, Housing, and New Urbanism

Invisible City: Poverty, Housing, and New Urbanism

Invisible City: Poverty, Housing, and New Urbanism

Invisible City: Poverty, Housing, and New Urbanism


A legendary figure in the realms of public policy and academia, John Gilderbloom is one of the foremost urban-planning researchers of our time, producing groundbreaking studies on housing markets, design, location, regulation, financing, and community building. Now, inInvisible City, he turns his eye to fundamental questions regarding housing for the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Why is it that some locales can offer affordable, accessible, and attractive housing, while the large majority of cities fail to do so?Invisible Citycalls for a brave new housing paradigm that makes the needs of marginalized populations visible to policy makers.

Drawing on fascinating case studies in Houston, Louisville, and New Orleans, and analyzing census information as well as policy reports, Gilderbloom offers a comprehensive, engaging, and optimistic theory of how housing can be remade with a progressive vision. While many contemporary urban scholars have failed to capture the dynamics of what is happening in our cities, Gilderbloom presents a new vision of shelter as a force that shapes all residents.


It's possible to be deeply caring, as John Gilderbloom is in this book, about the poor, the distressed, the homeless of his “Invisible City.” But can one also be pragmatic, rigorous in analysis, and focused unflinchingly on demonstrated results?

It's no easy stretch, but Gilderbloom comes close in this book. He dismisses ideological nostrums about housing, whether they come from the interventionist left or the do-nothing free-market right, and he faults selfinterested analyses of the real estate industry. Decent and desirable housing, he suggests, should be an inalienable right for each human in the one life he or she has to lead. It matters.

The social concern expressed here comes as a fresh breeze in an America alarmingly focused on such trivia as gilded bathrooms, multi-car garages and bloated square footage, citizens ready to wreak political revenge on anyone who interferes with the sanctity of the middle to upper classes' federal housing tax breaks. (And in fact, with the home mortgage deduction, they do garner the huge majority of federal housing subsidies each budget year.)

The real question isn't whether government plays a role in Americans' housing. It's how it can unlock the fiscal and policy doors to decent housing for our disadvantaged, impoverished, and elderly, in the interest of equity, shared community, and the general welfare writ large. Showing the relevance to more people, perhaps, we should take note of the recent years' poignant stories of how teachers, police, firefighters, and government workers are often literally priced out of the places they serve.

Refreshingly, Gilderbloom does not push for some single, magic, nationally applied housing solution. Indeed, one of the most interesting questions . . .

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