Gimme Shelter

How housing became the foremost symbol of inequality, and what we can do about it

A 1919 rent strike in New York City (UtCon Collection/Alamy)
A 1919 rent strike in New York City (UtCon Collection/Alamy)

As of 2019, 49.7% of American renters spend more than a third of their household income on rent. One quarter of all renters are spending at least half their income on rent. Whole generations are being shut out of the housing market by the skyrocketing price of buying a home. How did we get here? To find out, you have to go much further back than the 2008 financial crisis, which was infamously built on the shaky foundations of subprime mortgages. In his new book, Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, New York Times reporter Conor Dougherty uses the current housing crisis in California as a case study for the rest of the country, chronicling the building-level struggles, municipal policy fights, and sweeping economic changes that continue to rattle our notion of home.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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