Housing = Wealth

Columbia University, GSAPP, Urban Design Studio II, Sping 2021
Collaborators: Zuzanna Jarzynska, Xiaofei Sun, Chen Liu
Advisors: Kaja Kuehl, Anna Dietzsch, Shachi Pandey, Lee Altman, Thaddeus Pawlowski

The majority of houses built with government subsidies for homecoming WWII veterans were modest, single-family homes in suburban environments. By the 1960s, already 50% of Americans lived in a car-oriented suburb. Today, 69% of
Americans live in detached houses.

Instead of investing in public housing, federal programs turned to subsidizing private real estate and thus incentivized home ownership as a way to generate wealth. This process continues to broaden inequalities which were once established by redlining practices in planning and banking. Now, white Americans have at their disposal the wealth accumulated for generations, while families of color continue to be marginalized by neighborhood associations and mortgage lenders.

Local zoning plans support segregation of single-family houses on lots of prescribed minimum size. Despite the shrinking household sizes, developers build ever larger estates. Future owners expect idyllic, simple life, whilst the hidden financial and, more importantly, environmental costs of that decision are rarely discussed. Increasingly, the primary role of the housing market for single family homes is not to “house” people, but generate wealth for a few.