Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate
By Lisa Prevost
Beacon Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780807001578, 192pp.
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
An exploration of the corrosive effects of overpriced housing, exclusionary zoning, and the flight of the younger population in the Northeast
"Winner of the 2014 Bruss Silver Award and First-Time Author Award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors"
Towns with strict zoning are the best towns, aren't they? They're all about preserving local "character," protecting the natural environment, an dmaintaining attractive neighborhoods. Right?
In this bold challenge to conventional wisdom, Lisa Prevost strips away the quaint faCades of these desirable towns to reveal the uglier impulses behind their proud allegiance to local control. These eye-opening stories illustrate the outrageous lengths to which town leaders and affluent residents will go to prohibit housing that might attract the "wrong" sort of people. Prevost takes readers to a rural second-home community that is so restrictive that its celebrity residents may soon outnumber its children, to a struggling fishing village as it rises up against farmworker housing open to Latino immigrants, and to a northern lake community that brazenly deems itself out of bounds to apartment dwellers. From the blueberry barrens of Down East to the Gold Coast of Connecticut, these stories show how communities have seemingly cast aside the all-American credo of "opportunity for all" in favor of "I was here first."
Prevost links this "every town for itself" mentality to a host of regional afflictions, including a shrinking population of young adults, ugly sprawl, unbearable highway congestion, and widening disparities in income and educational achievement. "Snob Zones" warns that this pattern of exclusion is unsustainable and raises thought-provoking questions about what it means to be a community in post-recession America.
“Lisa Prevost masterfully chronicles how suburban and rural communities raise land-use drawbridges to exclude not just racial minorities and the poor but also middle-class families and the young. The cost of such exclusion is huge, and Prevost makes a powerful case for greater inclusion to strengthen local economies and community vitality.” —Chuck Collins, author of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It
“In Snob Zones, Lisa Prevost elegantly reveals the senselessness of NIMBYism, and the myriad ways in which affluent communities, in the name of self-interest, harm themselves and American society. A must-read for people who give a damn and want to gain insights on how we can do better, for ourselves and our children.” —Sheryll Cashin, author of The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream
“From the exploits of savvy gadfly developers upending ritzy Connecticut suburbs with plans for high-density housing scattered amid posh colonial houses to an aging New Hampshire town struggling with deep-rooted prejudices, Prevost charts a national problem on a local level. . . . [H]ousing policy analysts and populists will nod in assent to her well-drawn critiques of the ‘fortress mentality’ that makes local restrictions understandable from within and unconscionable from without.” —Publishers Weekly
“Prevost nicely connects the overarching trend of an ever more expensive housing market with a series of profiles of New England towns determined to bar all but the most costly single-family homes.” —Boston Real Estate Now