@theAAG 2019: Jakob Schneider on Assembling Post-Crisis Homeownership, or When Homeownership Fails? More Homeownership

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Date(s) - 04/03/2019
2:00 pm

Council Room, Omni, Lobby Level


Authors: Jakob Schneider*, The Graduate Center, CUNY
As the financial crisis wreaked havoc on neighborhoods and cities throughout the US, some commentators, scholars, and community development practitioners argued that this was the moment to rethink the nation’s “zealous pursuit of homeownership.” In many cities, this call for rethinking how people with lower-incomes are housed fell on deaf ears; indeed, some deployed homeownership as the antidote to its failure. Considering the case of Newark, New Jersey, this paper offers an account that answers the question of why, given the costs that the pursuit of homeownership throughout previous decades had imposed on the city and its residents, did the city, community developers, and activists deem homeownership a viable path forward for households and their neighborhoods? Using an approach informed by actor-network theory, I argue that response in Newark is not simply a result of political decisions, public policy, the pursuit of profit, or the cultural embeddedness of homeownership. Instead, I use Annemarie Mol’s concept of multiple ontologies to enact this approach to the crisis as a result of multiple assemblages of non-human and human things, each of which enacts a different homeownership. In doing so, we see that homeownership is distributed across networks that smooth the tensions and contradictions that an ontologically singular homeownership could not. In other words, the reason homeownership was the response to what appeared to be its failure is that there wasn’t a single “homeownership,” but multiple homeownerships enacted through different networks to achieve different ends.

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