The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
May 15, 2014

Climbing Mount Laurel shows us why we need “durable” housing policies

May 15, 2014

MetroTrends is pleased to host a series of reflections on Doug Massey’s new book, Climbing Mount Laurel, from experts on housing and social policy.

In my recent book, I show that neighborhood inequality in America is multigenerational. The vast majority of children currently being raised in poor, segregated communities are from families who have lived in similarly disadvantaged neighborhoods for multiple generations, a finding that should change the way that we study the impact of neighborhoods on the life chances of Americans—as well as the way we construct public policy.

If neighborhood disadvantage is multigenerational, short-term investments for families or communities are not sufficient to confront the challenges of urban inequality. Instead, we need durable urban policies that have the capacity to reach multiple generations of family members, to generate transformative changes in the lives of families and in the trajectories of communities.

Climbing Mount Laurel: The Struggle for Affordable Housing and Social Mobility in an American Suburb, tells the story of a housing development that represents a model for what durable housing policy looks like. The book, written by Douglas Massey and several collaborators, documents the arduous path that was taken by a committed group of families and advocates that fought against enormous obstacles for a decent, affordable community in which to live.

Massey and colleagues’ carefully designed study shows that when the housing was finally built, the families who were able to move into it benefited substantially and the wider community was unchanged, beyond the fact that it became more economically and racially diverse.

If the lessons learned from Mount Laurel made their way to policymakers and communities across the country, political debates about the challenges of durable housing policy would be altered permanently. In an effort to spread the word about this remarkable book, I asked a group of three experts to discuss and expand upon the themes of Climbing Mount Laurel. The three commentators provide a wonderful array of perspectives on research, policymaking, and the implementation of housing policy. Their thoughts are followed by a reaction from lead author Massey.

 

Handyman Jeffery Taylor, 51, and his nephew Nick Taylor look out from their Flint, Michigan property. Photo by Carlos Osorio/AP 

SHARE THIS PAGE

As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Experts are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.