There's No Place like Home: Anthropological Perspectives on Housing and Homelessness in the United States

By Anna Lou Dehavenon | Go to book overview

delinquent taxes. Again, this is rarely enforced. For example, a number of large landlords owe the city millions of dollars in water bills ( Tucker 1993). Yet tax delinquency is a conscious, capital-accumulating strategy connected with abandonment, as landlords both use and disuse property to displace the poor. When landlords begin to pay off taxes, this may mean they are preparing for gentrification. Governments should be more vigilant in taking into public ownership those buildings that are delinquent, and also in watching for changes in tax delinquency strategies as warning signals of gentrification.

Recommendation #4: Banking Issues and Recommendations. Government must do more to regulate the lenders who provide capital for gentrification but fail to provide it in other parts of the city. We could begin by enforcing nondiscrimination in mortgage and home equity loans. The Community Reinvestment Act, a law now on the books, requires banks to provide low-interest loans in their communities, and this should also be enforced, because the denial of credit to poorer people makes it very hard for them to own housing. There are many other models for ways that banks can help with the housing problem, including low down-payments on conventional mortgages, government-insured mortgages, loans for cooperative ventures, and refinancing multifamily units to decrease rents. Again, the crucial issue is access to credit, and government should make banks meet community credit needs.

Recommendation #5: Decommodification of Housing. Many argue that we must remove at least some housing from the speculative market and move it into the social sector, which would be to "decommodify" it. Congressman Dellum's bill, the National Comprehensive Housing Act, proposes that some housing be reconceptualized as social property and that the enormous costs linked to debt-financing be thereby removed. Numerous experiments around the country, ranging from cooperatives (some built on "sweat equity") to Cincinnati's Community Land Trust, try for limited-equity, resident-controlled alternatives. Undoing the idea that a house is more of an investment than a home might be difficult, and many layers of players have stakes in the debt-financing that Americans take for granted, although it has little to do any more with the cost of building or operating a residence. Certainly government should also work to maintain and rehabilitate existing private and public stock and to build affordable housing, which might also help to provide jobs for people at risk.


CONCLUSIONS

In Washington, D.C., the fact of an additional political layer becomes a problem, as much of the City Council's initially progressive legislation tends to be watered down for or battered by Congress. In spite of the support of President Clinton, statehood legislation for the District of Columbia has languished in Congress, and the prospect of immediate statehood seems unlikely. This is unfortunate, for if Washington were to become a state, it might be able to enact many of the above

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There's No Place like Home: Anthropological Perspectives on Housing and Homelessness in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contemporary Urban Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Prologue: Azdak Lives xi
  • Notes xiv
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Conclusion xx
  • 1: Poverty and Homelessness in Rural Upstate New York 1
  • Introduction 1
  • Summary and Recommendations 13
  • Conclusion 16
  • Notes 16
  • 2: The 1990 Decennial Census and Patterns of Homelessness in a Small New England City 19
  • Introduction 19
  • Summary and Recommendations 30
  • Conclusion 33
  • Note 33
  • 3: Doubling-Up: A Strategy of Urban Reciprocity to Avoid Homelessness in Detroit 35
  • Introduction 35
  • Summury and Recommendations 46
  • Conclusion 48
  • Notes 48
  • 4: Doubling-Up and New York City's Policies for Sheltering Homeless Families 51
  • Introduction 51
  • Summary and Recomendations 63
  • Conclusion 64
  • Conclusion 65
  • 5: A Home by Any Means Necessary: Government Policy on Squatting in the Public Housing of a Large Mid-Atlantic City 67
  • Introduction 67
  • Summary and Recommendations 76
  • Conclusion 78
  • Notes 78
  • 6: Huts for the Homeless: A Low- Technology Approach for Squatters in Atlanta, Georgia 81
  • Introduction 81
  • Summary and Recommendations 100
  • Conclusion 102
  • 7: Piety and Poverty: The Religious Response to the Homeless in Albuquerque, New Mexico 105
  • Introduction 105
  • Summary and Recommendations 114
  • Conclusion 116
  • Conclusion 117
  • 8: Suburban Homelessness and Social Space: Strategies of Authority and Local Resistance in Orange County, California 121
  • Introduction 121
  • Summary and Recommendations 140
  • Conclusion 141
  • Conclusion 142
  • 9: "There Goes the Neighborhood": Gentrification, Displacement, and Homelessness in Washington, D.C. 145
  • Introdution 145
  • Summary and Recommendations 160
  • Conclusions 162
  • Conclusions 163
  • Conclusion 165
  • Epilogue: A Perilous Bridge 175
  • References 177
  • Index 193
  • Contributors 203
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