Planning and the 'Real Estate State'
An article by Oscar Perry Abello inspired by the release of a new book, Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State, by Samuel Stein, provides the inspiration for a reality check for planners about their role in the racism of past and present land use regimes in the United States and a call to action to overthrow the status quo. Decades after the displacement of urban renewal and urban highway construction, the situation is different:
Stein’s book makes the case that planners today find themselves at the unchecked mercy of global finance, for whom real estate is now valued at some $217 trillion. That’s 60 percent of global assets, and three-quarters of those assets are in housing. He argues that no effective counterweight exists right now to the voices and interests of finance — as there have been, at times, in the past, and there could be again. Without an effective counterweight, nothing will push back against the constant pressure to drive up real estate values as the end goal or as an essential means to other ends. It reduces planners to mere wealth managers, wittingly or unwittingly.
The suggestion of the article and the book, according to Abello, are that community organizers can provide that effective counterweight. "The real challenge of today, as Stein points out, is finding the political means to shift the frame of what’s considered possible."