Fixer-Upper is the first book assessing how the broad set of local, state, and national housing policies affect people and communities. It does more than describe how yesterday’s policies led to today’s problems. It proposes practical policy changes than can make stable, decent-quality housing more available and affordable for all Americans in all communities.
Fixing systemic problems that arose over decades won’t be easy, in large part because millions of middle-class Americans benefit from the current system and feel threatened by potential changes. But Fixer-Upper suggests ideas for building political coalitions among diverse groups that share common interests in putting better housing within reach for more Americans, building a more equitable and healthy country.
Jenny Schuetz is a Senior Fellow at Brookings Metro. Her research focuses on urban economics and housing policy, particularly how government policies impact housing affordability and economic opportunity.
1 Housing Sits at the Intersection of Several Complex Systems 2 Build More Homes Where People Want to Live 3 Stop Building Homes in the Wrong Places 4 Give Poor People Money 5 Homeownership Should Be Only One Component of Household Wealth 6 High-Quality Community Infrastructure Is Expensive, But It Benefits Everyone 7 Overcoming the Limits of Localism 8 Build Political Coalitions around Better Policies
[Fixer Upper]…is one of the clearest overviews of America’s housing policy failures and just its housing policies that you’ll find. But reading it, a much deeper argument struck me throughout. This is very much a book about when democracy works and when it fails… what [Schuetz] is saying is that this system, what we often imagine to be the essence of democracy, it is failing and it is failing worst in the places where it often looks to be operating best. It’s a pretty profound set of questions, not just for liberals, but for anybody who thinks about political systems, to grapple with.
This book offers a well-written, well-researched, and insightful analysis of what is not working in housing and land use policies in the United States and how to fix them.
Housing affordability is one of the most important problems facing American families. Using an economic lens, Fixer-Upper presents a clear and compelling diagnosis of today’s housing ills and illuminates the path forward to reach the nation’s goal of decent and affordable homes and strong communities for all.
If you think housing policy is dry and technocratic, Fixer-Upper will convince you otherwise. Jenny Schuetz clearly and succinctly explains how current policies—from local zoning to federal tax policy—contribute to some of the country’s most urgent economic and social problems. Her proposed solutions are both practical and provocative—worthy of serious debate.
This pithy treatise examines the structural inequities in housing, makes a compelling ethical and economic argument that systemic change benefits everyone, and—though she is under no illusion that it will be easy—points the way forward.
While the scope of the book is both broad and incisive, the overall ambition is charged with moral imperative. The term fixer-upper is usually deployed as a marketing tool for a single unit of housing. In Schuetz’s hands, Fixer-Upper is a playbook for a sustainable, just, and humane system
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