Book Review: 'Brave New Home' (Bold Type Books)
Lind began writing this look at how the US population is shifting our views on homeownership and living in 2018; it’s release in the third quarter of 2020, during the crisis of COVID-19, makes it seem prophetic. Most notably, how our love affair with single-family housing is coming to a crossroads as generational issues become more prevalent (Millennial preferences, Boomer downsizing, and the need for multigenerational options). We can’t run from the realities of population growth, income stagnation, and dismantling of welfare programs.
How we, as a nation, have forged our relationships with the idea of home is a remarkable journey, well detailed in this debut effort. From the early days of boarding houses to the audacious policies of the Great Society era: this book tackles the history in a relatable and expedient manner. The brief section on Herbert Hoover’s involvement as then-Secretary of Commerce, and his concept of homeownership as patriotism, are exceptionally interesting.
The book never loses its pacing or feels rushed, which is impressive given the sprint it takes to get from the foundations of housing to the current and potential futures of it. Masterfully handled in quick but informative chapters, ‘Brave New Home’ covers all of this ground without being too weighty. A newcomer to the conversation can follow along without issue. Given the complexities of the topic, this is no small feat.
It’s light on policy discussion, and that’s (mostly) a good thing. Coming from the affordable housing world, our acronym-heavy conversations often alienate the average citizen, for whom the efforts are ultimately being made. That said, there are a handful of well-placed policy assessments that strengthen the author’s position.
The only issue I take is that true affordability seems to be an afterthought, especially as it relates to newer living concepts. Access to affordable housing is a critical issue facing our country and, amid another impending recession, I’m not sure luxury options such as WeLive (part of WeWork) are sustainable examples of the future we’re likely to see. It may be an unfair accusation, as Lind doesn’t frame her exploration of the topic around affordability, but it was an area of focus that I found lacking.
I highly recommend ‘Brave New World’ to anyone who has an interest in understanding our relationship with the concept of home and how it’s changing. It is a welcome addition to the conversation, and one that I believe offers a sorely needed gateway into the topic for the average citizen.
BRAVE NEW HOME
Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing
By Diana Lind
257 pp. Bold Type Books. $28.