Housing and Urbanization in the United States

This course examines housing as both an individual concern and an object of policy and planning. It is intended to provide those with an interest in urban policy and planning with a broad background on why housing matters and how its unique attributes give rise to certain challenges and shape how practitioners respond to them.

The course first lays out a framework for understanding the roles housing plays in individuals’ lives, neighborhoods, and the metropolis. Early sessions examine the unique attributes and roles of housing, including the role of homes as constitutive of the private and domestic realms, housing as an icon and encoder of social status, housing as a commodity, and housing as a driver of urbanization and shaper of neighborhoods.

The next sessions focus on housing as an object of policy, examining the early rise of public intervention into housing as a result of concerns over slums and the expansion in the twentieth century of programs and policies that shaped housing markets, homeownership, and metropolitan form. We also explore problems flowing directly out of these interventions, including sprawl, concentrated poverty, housing unaffordability, and racial segregation.

Finally, the course focuses on planning and policy responses to these challenges, including responses to poverty and segregation through urban renewal, public housing, fair housing laws, and participatory planning; cost-income mismatches and attempts to supply affordable housing; and land use regulation as a potential solution to the social and environmental problems of low-density, exclusionary development. The final session will touch on some of the most recent solutions to housing challenges including micro units, form-based zoning, age-friendly design, and others.

Upon completion, students will have a firm grasp of housing and urban issues, a theoretical frame for understanding them, and a working knowledge of the planning and policy tools used to address these issues.


Jointly Offered Course: HKS SUP-661