Restorative Justice in Housing | A Long Repentance Post #14 | The Anástasis Center for Christian Education & Ministry: Sangwon Yang & Mako Nagasawa


Park swing.  Max Pixel, Public Domain.

The Purpose of A Long Repentance Blog Series

People talk about issues of race and justice in the United States as issues of ‘justice and injustice.’  Sometimes we launch into debates about ‘the proper role of government.’  But is that the original framework from which these issues were asked and debated?

The purpose of the blog post series called A Long Repentance: Exploring Christian Mistakes About Race, Politics, and Justice in the United States is to remind our readers that these issues began as Christian heresies.  They were at variance from Christian beliefs prior to colonialism.  Since Christians enacted and institutionalized what we believe to be heretical ideas, they were very destructive and harmful, then as now.  And we bear a unique responsibility for them.  As a result, we believe we must engage in a long repentance.  We must continue to resist the very heresies that we put into motion.  Thus the title of this blog series, A Long Repentance.  The journey is long and challenging.  It may be impossible to see the end.  But along the way, it is also inspiring and sometimes breathtaking.

We also encourage you to explore this booklet, A Long Repentance: A Study Guide, for further reflections and discussion questions.

In Post #2 and Post #5, we explored how white American Protestants promoted the heretical view of Genesis 1 taught by John Locke, that the productive can take land/property from the unproductive.   Setting themselves up for deep anxiety, they also maintained that the social system they set up was fair and ‘meritocratic’ – as opposed to blatantly racist.  They tended to believe that their ‘individual success’ was the result of their ‘personal hard work.’  White Americans even hid from themselves the fact that they used massive government intervention to set up a deeply unequal and racialized social system that continues to this day.  In past posts, we looked at why meritocracy has been an illusion covering over racism in housing, schooling, and criminal justice.  In this post, we explore the even more fundamental question of whether meritocratic-retributive justice is what we should be aiming for.  We argue it should not.  Instead, we should build a social system around a Christian restorative justice paradigm.


Housing First and Evangelical Opposition to Programs Helping the Poor

“We talked about housing earlier,” Michaela said.  “And I want to ask you how you would approach the issue of housing.  I ask because I remember how George W. Bush talked about “compassionate conservatism.”  And I identify as a conservative.  But I feel like conservatives have gotten less compassionate over time.  And the issue of housing is one place that shows up.”

“What do you mean?” Brian asked.

“Housing First programs are a good example,” Michaela replied.  “Utah reduced chronic homelessness by 91% using a Housing First policy.[1]  New Orleans reduced its homeless population by 90%.[2]  Five Canadian cities implemented Housing First with great results.[3]  Even from a fiscally conservative standpoint, Housing First is cost effective.  We save money on emergency rooms and police efforts.”[4]

“Absolutely,” said Brian.  “People are more stable with good housing.  They can keep in touch with doctors, social workers, counselors, veterans’ organizations, potential employers, and actual employers.  So social workers tend to advocate for it.”[5]

“But I know a lot of white evangelical Christians who are against it,” said Michaela.  “Or they don’t seem to care.  In fact, white evangelical Christians are against programs for the poor more than the general population.[6]  I thought they should be for it.  Why do you think that is?”

The Roots of a Meritocratic-Retributive Mentality:  Three Sources

“I’m glad you’re pointing that out,” said Brian.  “Well, I can think of three influences.  First, there is the lingering effect of the “curse of Ham” idea.”

“What is that?” asked Michaela.

“One of the worst heresies ever,” said Brian.  “In the Bible, Noah had three sons.  The youngest, named Ham, did something dishonorable against his father, and probably his mother, too, in Genesis 9.  Noah says that Ham’s son Canaan would be cursed.  Now that by itself needs some explanation, but the idea came into Western Christianity that:

“Ham was the ancestor of black Africans, that Ham was cursed by God, and that therefore Blacks have been eternally and divinely doomed to enslavement… A 1969 study of the educational materials (Sunday School lessons, primers, teachers’ manuals, catechisms, etc.) of the American Lutheran Church found that the church had interpreted Gen 9:25–27 in a way that justified Black slavery and/or segregation, and it had done so both intentionally and inadvertently. “There is no doubt left that the ‘curse of Ham’ has been taught to our [i.e., American Lutheran] children as well as our adults, and application has been made of this curse to our black population. And this teaching is one which has been handed down from generation to generation.  The Lutherans were not alone. The Curse of Ham was commonly taught and believed in America up to recent times. As James Baldwin, the African American writer, said: “I knew that, according to many Christians, I was a descendant of Ham, who had been cursed, and that I was therefore predestined to be a slave.””[7]

“You’re saying,” said Michaela, “that white evangelical Christians believed they were carrying out the justice of God…”

“As if God’s justice was retributive,” added Brian. “And yes, by enslaving black people, ripping them from their homes, and denying them other homes.  Once they had a supposedly biblical reason to think that an entire race is criminal, they justified to themselves all sorts of terrible things, including no social welfare programs.”

“Yes,” said Michaela.  “Once white people – and white evangelicals in particular – stereotype a welfare recipient as a black person, they think of criminals cheating the system.”

“Exactly,” said Brian.

“What is factor number two?” asked Michaela.

“John Calvin,” Brian continued.

“The Protestant Reformer from the 1500’s?” asked Michaela.  “What did he do?”

“Calvin,” Brian replied, “said that God’s functional basis for judging us was our merit and demerit, even if God chose to have mercy on some, to not give them what they deserved.  To Calvin, God was meritocratic in theory, and retributive in practice, given human sin.  Calvin also said we find a vocation or calling in a job, and we prove our salvation through working hard for low wages.[8]  Functionally, Calvinism destroyed almsgiving to beggars,[9] and made them work:

“Calvinism, notably Puritanism, from its beginning was in economic terms the design and system of an anti-welfare or anti-charity economy and society…”[10]

If you want to see one of the first shifts from compassionate conservatism to contemptuous conservatism, look at Calvinism develop:

“Following Calvinism, in England as well as America “the Puritan battle-cry was: “Giving alms is no charity” in contrast or even deliberate opposition to the Christian medieval ethics of “good works through giving alms” and the “Anglican social ethic” of the Stuarts that “was very close to this attitude”. In his account, Puritanism was the enthusiastic participant “in the severe English Poor Relief Legislation which fundamentally changed the situation” during the 17th century and later. Also, contemporary analysts register and emphasize that Puritanism in England and America is emptied of the values of caritas and compassion which are in the “lineage of the welfare state.” Others suggest that Calvinism was “different” from other Protestantism and Catholicism not (only) by its work ethic but rather its “willingness and ability” to impose its ethical code with a “vengeance,” notably in America as well as England through Puritanism. In this account, the “harsh moral tenor” and even “Draconian” restrictions of welfare institutions and policies in England and America are “rooted” in Calvinism via Puritanism which explains why “hostility to public aid” is a specifically English-American attribute that other Protestant societies do not share.”[11]

“Obviously that includes housing,” said Brian.  “But Calvin’s legacy almost certainly affects labor, to this day:  U.S. federal employees, and most State employees, cannot go on strikes.  It’s against the law.”

“Teachers can’t strike,” said Michaela.

“Somehow we think that public jobs aren’t real jobs,” Brian added.  “In other countries, government employees can go on strikes.  We are “virtually alone among advanced Western and other (including Eastern European)”[12] countries on that point.”

“Hmmm,” said Michaela.  “And what or who is influence number three on contemptuous conservatism?”

“John Locke,” Brian said.

“The Enlightenment political philosopher during the 1700’s?” said Michaela.  “Two Treatises of Government guy?  Major influence on the American founders?  What did he say?”

“John Locke said that the English colonists could take Native American land from them,” said Brian, “because they supposedly weren’t being “productive” with it.  He was the first white man to accuse non-white people of being “lazy.”  And Locke justified it by quoting Genesis 1.  He said God gives land – read homes – to those who are the most productive.”

“Isn’t that what it means?” asked Michaela.

“No,” said Brian.  “All Christians before John Locke believed God gave the land – really, the planet – as a gift to human beings in common.  It wasn’t a reward for merit.[13]  God gives the whole creation to human beings as a gift to share, not as a reward from which you exclude others.  John Locke’s view was heretical, and uniquely Protestant.  His precedent was the Protestant English crown seizing the lands of Catholic monasteries on the grounds that it was “unproductive.”[14]  By the way, Locke believed that black people were descended from West African women mating with apes.”[15]

Housing as an Expression of Biblical Restorative Justice

“Coming back to your point about the Housing First program,” said Brian, “I would expand on that.  Both Jewish and Christian faiths look at housing as an aspect of restorative justice, broadly.”

“How so?” asked Michaela.

“The Garden of Eden,” replied Brian, “was God’s “Housing First” plan.  God kept trying to bring people back there.  In Leviticus 25, for example, God pressed an economic reset button in Israel every fifty years called the Jubilee Year.  He had the Jewish people put land back to its original tribal and family boundaries.  Even if people became so poor they had to sell their family land, they’d get it back.  At least in principle, every fifty years, God re-gifted the garden land back to each generation of Israelites.  God did not allow parents and grandparents to pass down all the advantages or disadvantages they possibly could to their kids and grandkids.  And land was their basic source of wealth, a place to work, a school to learn, their source of nutrition, their connection to nature, their sense of place, part of their mental health, and the biggest part of the inheritance they gave to their kids.  God’s Jubilee gift cancelled the inherited effects of misfortune and even laziness.”

“How could you implement that now?” Michaela asked.  “It seems impossible and out of context.”

“It’s not straightforward,” agreed Brian.  “But there’s a range of reasonable options.[16]  In Germany, for example, housing is part of the labor market and an investment in children.  So Germany encourages renting, not owning, because they want people to be able to move around for jobs.  They make neighborhoods more equitable, so parents feel confident their children will have good options for schools.  And the government releases land for housing development regularly, to keep rents down.”

“So what happens?” asked Michaela.

“Germany’s economy is pretty good isn’t it?” asked Brian.  “And Forbes says:

“It is hard to quarrel with the results. On figures cited in 2012 by the British housing consultant Colin Wiles, one-bedroom apartments in Berlin were then selling for as little as $55,000, and four-bedroom detached houses in the Rhineland for just $80,000. Broadly equivalent properties in New York City and Silicon Valley were selling for as much as ten times higher.”[17]

“That’s so different from the American system, though,” said Michaela.  “We have a free market…”

“No, we don’t,” said Brian.  “We have white racist control in real estate.  As soon as black people moved North and West, white people wrote racial covenants into their house deeds, preventing a new buyer from selling to a black person later.[18]  We have white racist control over zoning and development, as Bloomberg notes:

“Development tends to be restricted by powerful incumbent homeowners — or Nimbys, for “not in my backyard” — who want to restrict supply and keep out low-income residents in order to raise their property values. Often these exclusions have a distinctly racial tinge. That’s why in order to really build more housing all across the land, state or national government will probably have to take charge.”[19]

“Then we had white racist government-backed mortgages: the taxpayer-funded affirmative action program for white families to move to the suburbs.[20]  Black taxpayers funded subsides denied to them but granted to white people.  And we have a banking system that has never been run for the interests of the common person, where black and brown people, especially, were foreclosed on, destroying what equity they had,[21] while a “Quantitative Easing” policy inflated home equity for many who already owned homes.[22]  America has a hidden welfare system that allows white people to believe that they “merited” all the rewards they got, while black and poor people “merited” all the suffering they got, on a level playing field.”

“I see,” said Michaela.

“The basic question,” said Brian, “is whether or not we say, “You’re on your own” to other people when it comes to housing.  Or, do we restore people to a certain physical and relational and space because it is human – and just – to do so?”

“You’re standing on a completely different foundation than I am, or most do,” said Michaela.

“It’s the early Christian foundation,” said Brian.  “The God I worship looks at each of us with love, and wants to give each of us an inheritance.  I’m just trying to reflect that.  And I really appreciate, Michaela, you exploring what happened to conservatism.  One aspect of conservatism that I appreciate is conserving tradition. What tradition, exactly, are you trying to conserve?”


For further reflections and discussion questions, see the Study Guide.



[1] Kelly McEvers, “Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness By 91 Percent; Here’s How,” NPR, December 10, 2015, writes

“The chronically homeless… are a subset of the homeless population that is often the most vulnerable. These are people who have been living on the streets for more than a year, or four times in the past three years, and who have a “disabling condition” that might include serious mental illness, an addiction or a physical disability or illness. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that represents about 20 percent of the national homeless population. By implementing a model known as Housing First, Utah has reduced that number from nearly 2,000 people in 2005, to fewer than 200 now.”

[2] Editor, “How New Orleans Reduced Its Homeless Population By 90 Percent,” NPR Illinois, February 19, 2019, writes:

“New Orleans faced a major crisis in homelessness following Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, two years after the storm, there were more than 11,600 homeless people in the city. Since then, New Orleans stepped up its effort to tackle homelessness and has brought that number down 90 percent… Actually, this is a very cost-effective approach, because when you think about it, it is costing the taxpayer a tremendous amount of money to leave people on the street. They’re constantly cycling in and out of jail on charges that wouldn’t even be relevant if they had an apartment, things like urinating in public, drinking in public, obstructing the sidewalk because they’re having to sleep on the sidewalk. Homeless offences, in other words, that are costing the taxpayers a lot of money to be putting them in jail and processing them through the criminal justice system. Their health is deteriorating while they’re out on the street. They’re being taken by ambulance to the emergency room constantly. Those are huge charges.

“Really what you need is, you know, a relatively small amount of money to pay for some rent assistance and they can contribute some of that rent as well with disability benefits or if they’re able to work with, you know, employment income and a little bit of case-management assistance. It really has been proven over and over again in studies to be very cost effective.”

[3] Fredrick Kunkle, “”Housing First” Approach Works for Homeless, Study Says,” Washington Post, March 4, 2015, reports,

“The study involved about 2,000 people enrolled in a program called At Home/Chez Soi, a research program that takes a “housing first” approach in five Canadian cities. (The study drew data involving people recruited to the program between October 2009 and July 2011 in four cities: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.) […] Other studies have demonstrated the benefit of the “housing first” approach, she said. But this study also shows that the program is effective even when the social services offered are less intense than those in similar programs. Those more intensive programs – what the authors call Assertive Community Treatment – involve an interdisciplinary team that includes a psychiatrist and others, and small caseloads. The approach taken by Chez Soi is also less expensive than the more intensive approach, costing about $14,177 per participant per year, compared with $22,257. Our findings thus highlight that scattered-site housing with intensive case management is effective in reducing homelessness among a broader spectrum of the homeless population who may have a severe mental illness but do not require Assertive Community Treatment support, best reserved for a smaller group of homeless adults with high needs for mental health and other support services,” the study says.”

[4] See footnotes above

[5] Deborah H. Siegel, “Reducing Homelessness With the Housing First Model — Does It Work?”, Social Work Today, Volume 17, Number 5, page 18,

[6] Julie Zauzmer, “Christians Are More Than Twice as Likely to Blame a Person’s Poverty on Lack of Effort,” Washington Post, August 3, 2017,  Also, Chauncy DeVega, “So Much for Christian Charity: Evangelicals Blame the Poor for Poverty, Which Makes Them a Lot Like Other Republicans,” Salon, August 10, 2017,  Perhaps this contributes to why other communities are criminalizing homelessness:  See Pam Fessler, “U.S. Cities Face Challenges In Reducing Homeless Population,” NPR, December 11, 2015, who says in other cities, we are seeing “an increase in laws to criminalize homelessness, to make it illegal to camp, to panhandle, to, in fact, feed people – large groups of people – outside.”

[7] David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), p.161 – 162 notes:

“Of course, the biblical text does not describe anyone as Black. Nonetheless everyone assumed that Ham was Black and that he was somehow affected by the curse of slavery. It didn’t matter whether one supported the institution of Black slavery or not, or whether one was Black or not; everyone in nineteenth-century America seemed to believe in the truth of Ham’s blackness. As Edward Blyden, a Black scholar, clergyman, and statesman, wrote in 1869: “It is not to be doubted that from the earliest ages the black complexion of some of the descendants of Noah was known. Ham, it would seem, was of a complexion darker than that of his brothers.” This was a “fact” accepted by almost all, including both abolitionists and a large number of Black clergy. “That the black race . . . are the descendants of Ham, there can be no reasonable doubt.” No one did doubt it; Ham was the progenitor of the black African. In a study of the mythic world of the antebellum South vis-à-vis Blacks, Thomas Peterson showed that the notion of Blacks as “the children of Ham” was a well-entrenched belief:  “White southern Christians overwhelmingly thought that Ham was the aboriginal black man.” It was a notion well-entrenched in the North as well as the South. And it was a notion that went back, at least, to the year 1700, when the Puritan Samuel Sewall published one of the earliest anti-slavery tracts and argued against the idea that “these Blackamores are the Posterity of Cham, and therefore are under the Curse of Slavery.”

Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (New York: Nation Books, 2016), p.20 – 21 notes the presence of the “curse of Ham” theory in the notable Persian scholar Tabari (838 – 923 AD), but otherwise judges it to be a speculative idea in the medieval period.  Slavery was too broad and diverse to give the “curse of Ham” real credence.  Kendi notes, however:

“The shift to solely enslaving Black people, and justifying it using the curse of Ham, was in the offing.  Once that shift occurred, the disempowered curse theory became empowered, and racist ideas truly came into being.” (p.21)

Kendi points out that the “climate theory” of skin pigmentation “fell apart when [English traveler and writer George Best] saw on an Arctic voyage in 1577 that the Inuit people in northeastern Canada were darker than the people living in the hotter south” (p.31).  He therefore advocated for the “hereditary” idea of the “curse of Ham” theory.  This notion was rather thoroughly imbibed by the English Puritans like William Perkins (p.33), Richard Mather (p.33), Richard Baxter (p.48), Cotton Mather (p.59 – 64, 68 – 76). John Locke put forward the idea that “West African had conceived babies with apes (p.50, and see below).  Some white Christians in Barbados even developed the idea that there was another human ancestor other than Adam from which their enslaved African people were descended (p.51).

[8] Max Weber, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, p.177 cites the saying, “only when the people were poor did they remain obedient to God,” but does not provide a reference in Calvin’s own works.  Nevertheless, Weber does cite Thomas Adams, Works of the Puritan Divines, p.158, who thought “that God probably allows so many people to remain poor because He knows that they would not be able to withstand the temptations that go with wealth.  For wealth all too often draws men away from religion.”

The objection might be raised that our view of Calvin is too unkind.  Mark Valeri, “Calvin and the Social Order: Moral Ideals and Transatlantic Empire,” edited by Thomas J. Davis, John Calvin’s American Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), argues that Calvin was flexible and malleable in his political-economic ethics.  Valeri p.23 – 24 points out how Calvin personally criticized grain merchants for price-gouging refugees and exile who came to Geneva from France and England, noting:

“In practical terms, Calvin demanded that merchants put their grain on the market
immediately and price it at the customary, affordable rates.” (p.23)

Valeri also says that Calvin cautioned wealthy citizens to not sue indebted poor people in court, preached that business people should offer jobs to the needy, and still called for the wealthy to give alms to the needy (p.23).  We grant Valeri the historical point.  Nevertheless, on balance, Calvin’s social impact set into motion other forces which quickly overtook concern for the poor.  First, Calvin accepted usury situationally, which led to the Calvinist tradition accepting usury in principle, which eventually led to a predatory banking system.  Valeri notes that in Geneva, Calvin developed a public bank (p.24) but elsewhere endorsed private usury (p.24), which led to Puritans accepting usury at low levels but resisting “creditors with their inflated fees” (p.24), which led to Massachusetts Puritans accepting “minimal interest on loans to fellow colonists” (p.25), which led to New England Puritans “adjust[ing] their economic teachings” in the Atlantic economy, where they “deploy[ed] credit as a commodity, that is, as a means to profit in and of itself” (p.25 – 26), which led to Puritan “Preachers subtly shift[ing] the meaning of the sin of usury from any exchange of credit for a profit to mean-spirited lawsuits against impoverished debtors” (p.27), which led to “free floating prices and interest rates” (p.28), which led to the view

“that the customary prohibitions against usury amounted to old Catholic superstitions long made anachronistic; that merchants who set their prices by the market merely followed the laws of providence; and that the host of new techniques for making a profit in the market, from using lawyers and factors to trading bonds and securities, were godly practices.” (p.28, emphasis ours)

This shift from public banking to unlimited, private usury for the sake of profit alone led to the predatory financial system we have today.  That system is supported by the popular mythology on the ground that the market reflects “the laws of providence.”

Second, Calvin praised the rational merchant who pursued economic abundance.  Valeri traces the development of Puritan economic thought and practice, for instance, to Adam Smith.  However, Valeri fails to mention that Adam Smith was firmly against the “joint stock company,” which in modern terms is the “limited liability” company which is not truly responsible for the damages it causes to land, air, water, labor, and consumers.  This led to the predatory corporation.  For more resources, see:

Third, Valeri, like Calvin himself, appears to favor a pragmatic approach of “bending the rules” so that the English Puritans and the Dutch Reformed and the French Reformed Huguenots could be for mercantilism when it suited their survival interests against Catholic kingdoms, but against it when it became cumbersome or too obviously implicated in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  But this is not even a matter of moving one goalpost.  If one can switch between a goalpost of “biblical faithfulness” on the one hand, and another goalpost of “economic success” on the other, without any clear definition, even, of “economic success for whom?”, then one is conveniently above criticism at all times!

[9] Max Weber, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, p.177ff. “One of the most notable economic effects of Calvinism was its destruction of the traditional forms of charity [alms-giving].”

[10] Milan Zafirovski, The Destiny of Modern Societies: The Calvinist Predestination of a New Society (Leiden, Brill, 2009), p.190

[11] Milan Zafirovski, p.191

[12] Milan Zafirovski, p.189

[13] See our earlier blog post,

[14] See Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992) and Geoffrey Moorhouse, The Last Divine Office: Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries (New York: Bluebridge, 2012)

[15] Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (New York: Nation Books, 2016), p.50 says:

“Locke also touched on the origin of species in An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding.  Apes, whether “these be all Men, or not, all of human Species,” depended on one’s “definition of the Word Man,” because, he said, “if History lie not,” then West African women had conceived babies with apes.  Locke thus reinforced African female hypersexuality in a passage sent round the English-speaking world.  “And what real Species, by that measure, such a Production will be in Nature, will be a new Question.”

[16] One very worthwhile perspective is offered by Christopher J.H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.  See especially chapters 3 – 6.  Also, Oliver M.T. O’Donovan, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) makes the very important observation that Christians need to respect Jewish ethical thought, because the proper framework for Christian policymaking is not simply “church and state” but “church, states, and the Jews,” based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 11.

[17] Eamonn Fingleton, “In World’s Best-Run Economy, House Prices Keep Falling — Because That’s What House Prices Are Supposed To Do,” Forbes, February 2, 2014, says:

“Rather than keep their noses out of the economy, German officials glory in influencing market outcomes. While the Goerlitz authorities are probably exceptional in the degree to which they micromanage house prices, a fundamental principle of German economics is to keep housing costs stable and affordable… A key to the story is that German municipal authorities consistently increase housing supply by releasing land for development on a regular basis. The ultimate driver is a central government policy of providing financial support to municipalities based on an up-to-date and accurate count of the number of residents in each area.  The German system moreover is deliberately structured to encourage renting rather than owning… Meanwhile demand for owner occupation is curbed by German regulation. German banks, for instance, are rarely permitted to lend more than 80 percent of the value of a property, thus a would-be home buyer first needs to accumulate a deposit of at least 20 percent. To cap it all, ownership of a home is subject to a serious consumption tax, while landlords are encouraged by favorable tax treatment to maximize the availability of rental properties…

Germany’s managed housing market helps smooth the availability of labor. And by virtually eliminating bubbles, the German system minimizes the sort of misallocation of resources that is more or less unavoidable in the Anglo-American boom-bust cycle. That cycle is exacerbated by tax incentives which encourage citizens to view home ownership as an investment, resulting in much hoarding and underutilization of space.”

[18] See Christopher Silver, The Racial Origins of Zoning in American Cities, edited by June Manning Thomas and Marsha Ritzdorf, Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1997),–%20racialoriginsofzoning.pdf, who says:

“[Yale] Rabin’s study emphasizes the “social origins” of zoning and planning in the United States. He notes, as have other scholars, that Southern cities in the early twentieth century used zoning to enforce the newly created system of racial segregation. “While northern Progressives were enacting zoning as a mechanism for protecting and enhancing property values,” Rabin observes, “southern Progressives were testing its effectiveness as a means of enforcing racial segregation.”  Baltimore enacted the first racial zoning ordinance in 1910; within several years the practice was widespread in the region. The racial zoning movement received a sharp reversal in 1917, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared a Louisville, Kentucky racial zoning ordinance unconstitutional. Despite the Court’s ruling  in Buchanan v. Warley, Southern cities persisted in seeking a legally defensible way to use zoning to control Black residential change. In the place of race zoning per se, Rabin contends, many cities turned to “expulsive zoning,” which permitted “the intrusion into Black neighborhoods of disruptive incompatible uses that have diminished the quality and undermined the stability of those neighborhoods.” The concept of “expulsive zoning” helps to explain how American cities made the transition from racial zoning to recent zoning that has a decidedly discriminatory impact on Black neighborhoods.”

See also Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).

[19] Noah Smith, “Ben Carson and HUD Get Ready to Take On the Nimbys,” Bloomberg, September 12, 2018,, writes:

“Unfortunately, a HUD attack on exclusionary zoning will probably face stiff political opposition. Although some conservatives want to fight zoning on libertarian grounds, others are sure to balk at the possibility of letting poor people flood into more affluent neighborhoods. And liberals, despite their general commitment to racial integration and equality, often tend to balk at dense new developments in their own back yards.  But while Carson probably won’t manage to conjure a bipartisan consensus and change the U.S.’s dysfunctional urban development patterns overnight, his proposal shows that policy makers are looking in the right direction. The rent has just gotten too high to keep doing nothing.”

[20] See our earlier blog posts: 


[21] Jamelle Bouie, “The Crisis in Black Homeownership,” Slate, July 24, 2014, writes:

“In 2005, three years before the Great Recession, the median black household had a net worth of $12,124. Yes, this was far behind the median white household—which had a net worth of $134,992—but it was a huge improvement from previous decades, in which housing discrimination made wealth accumulation difficult (if not impossible) for the large majority of African-American families. By the official end of the recession in 2009, median household net worth for blacks had fallen to $5,677—a generation’s worth of hard work and progress wiped out. (The number for whites, by comparison, was $113,149.) Overall, from 2007 to 2010, wealth for blacks declined by an average of 31 percent, home equity by an average of 28 percent, and retirement savings by an average of 35 percent. By contrast, whites lost 11 percent in wealth, lost 24 percent in home equity, and gained 9 percent in retirement savings. According to a 2013 report by researchers at Brandeis University, “half the collective wealth of African-American families was stripped away during the Great Recession.”

[22] David McWilliams, “Quantitative Easing Was the Father of Millennial Socialism,” Financial Times, March 1, 2019, says:

“Mr Bernanke’s unorthodox “cash for trash” scheme, otherwise known as quantitative easing, drove up asset prices and bailed out baby boomers at the profound political cost of pricing out millennials from that most divisive of asset markets, property. This has left the former comfortable, but the latter with a fragile stake in the society they are supposed to build…

Soaring asset prices, particularly property prices, drive a wedge between those who depend on wages for their income and those who depend on rents and dividends. This wages versus rents-and-dividends game plays out generationally, because the young tend to be asset-poor and the old and the middle-aged tend to be asset-rich. Unorthodox monetary policy, therefore, penalises the young and subsidises the old.

When asset prices rise much faster than wages, the average person falls further behind. Their stake in society weakens. The faster this new asset-fuelled economy grows, the greater the gap between the insiders with a stake and outsiders without. This threatens a social contract based on the notion that the faster the economy grows, the better off everyone becomes.”

McWilliams adds, significantly:

“For the purist, capitalism without default is a bit like Catholicism without hell. But we have confession for a reason. Everyone needs absolution. QE was capitalism’s confessional. But what if the day of reckoning was only postponed? What if a policy designed to protect the balance sheets of the wealthy has unleashed forces that may lead to the mass appropriation of those assets in the years ahead?”

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