A journey to the front lines of the battle for the future of American cities, uncovering the massive, systemic forces behind gentrification -- and the lives that are altered in the process.
The term gentrification has become a buzzword to describe the changes in urban neighborhoods across the country, but we don't realize just how threatening it is. It means more than the arrival of trendy shops, much-maligned hipsters, and expensive lattes. The very future of American cities as vibrant, equitable spaces hangs in the balance.
Peter Moskowitz's How to Kill a City takes readers from the kitchen tables of hurting families who can no longer afford their homes to the corporate boardrooms and political backrooms where destructive housing policies are devised. Along the way, Moskowitz uncovers the massive, systemic forces behind gentrification in New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York. The deceptively simple question of who can and cannot afford to pay the rent goes to the heart of America's crises of race and inequality. In the fight for economic opportunity and racial justice, nothing could be more important than housing.
A vigorous, hard-hitting expose, How to Kill a City reveals who holds power in our cities-and how we can get it back.
Journalist Moskowitz's first book is ambitious but also cluttered and lacking in depth. The book begins by suggesting that gentrification is a misunderstood buzzword. Moskowitz discusses the stages cities go through before gentrification is complete, beginning with policy and planning long before the coffee shops and art galleries show up. Examining the phenomenon through four cities (Detroit, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco) should broaden the scope of the book, but the chapters are too brief and none of the cities is afforded enough time. Moskowitz asserts that current urban planning trends don't favor residents, noting how the populations of two radically transformed cities, Detroit and New Orleans, have declined. The book has too many threads that are not given enough room to unspool, such as the reverse "white flight" back into cities. There are many compelling beginnings. but the book reads like a summary; it's a retread of information for knowledgeable readers and a superficial introduction for novices.