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Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State
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Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State


4.12  ·  Rating details ·  115 ratings  ·  25 reviews
“This superbly succinct and incisive book couldn’t be more timely or urgent.” —Michael Sorkin, author of All Over the Map

Our cities are changing. Around the world, more and more money is being invested in buildings and land. Real estate is now a $217 trillion dollar industry, worth thirty-six times the value of all the gold ever mined. It forms sixty percent of global asse
Paperback, 202 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Verso
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4.12  · 
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 ·  115 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In "Capital City", Sam Stein has produced an accessible and readable socialist account of real estate development and urban politics. He explains in straight-forward terms why real estate owners and developers are so much more powerful than they used to be, why planners and city governments are forced to cater to their needs, and the terrible things this does to cities and people's lives. Unlike many introductory accounts of gentrification, Stein does an excellent job recognizing the importance ...more
Rob Smith
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: urbanism
I fucking hate hearing about New York City. Most of the country doesn't live in these AAA, rich-as-Crassus cities, and NYC has a particular complex political/economic/social eco-system. A lot of the examples of the real estate state (itself a clunky phrase I hate) are pulled from the Big Apple and just aren't doable in your small town, mid-size regional cities.

It's a solid book overall tho. The information is solid, necessary and breaks down complex economic and political factors into an easy to
Aarav Balsu
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
As someone who is quite uninformed about the intricacies of real-estate and urban planning, I found this book tremendously eye-opening. The book is broadly divided into:
- what is urban planning?
- how is real estate measured/valued?
- how urban planners are ultimately beholden to the fluctuations and dictatorship of real estate values (the latter having evolved into a financial instrument speculated upon by a transnational capitalist class)
- a history of the displacement of working-class demogr
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sam Stein clearly and articulately lays out how and why our cities are gentrifying because of real estate being the most powerful force in the world's economy. With crazy rents, rich people and developers taking over every major city, it's nice to have an incredibly clear and specific description of the political and historical complexities of city planning and gentrification that pinpoints specific laws and moments in history when policies and programs where made that oppress working class folk ...more
Want to see the death of affordable housing by a thousand cuts?

Attend a City Council meeting sometime.

Sure. The contentious meetings involving school budgets get a lot of attention with bodies in the room or lines in your local paper. However, its the other meetings where your muncipal leaders spend hours in a room listening to lawyers or developers sell your City Councilor on this "exciting new idea" is where cities are shaped.

Capital City is an absolutely fantastic readable book about the rise
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
‘Capital City - Gentrification and the Real Estate State’ by Samuel Stein (VERSO, 2019) is an exceptionally interesting read on the origins of the ‘real estate state’ and an urban geography of dispossession aka gentrification.

A few key take-aways: the phenomenon of turning cities from places into commodities and associates dispossession must be understood within the contrxt of the decline and literal retreat of manufacturing/ industrial capital and the outsized power of real estate and finance i
Matthew Hall
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes a book offers you a clarifying vision-- it elucidates questions you've had about the past and how historical and economic structures have led to the world we daily inhabit, where so many absurdities about even the most mundane structures around us remain unexamined and unquestioned. And then that book takes time to offer you an almost prophetic glimpse of the possible future. This is one of those books.
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-books
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I appreciate Sam Stein’s book immensely. His activist and unapologetic voice is refreshing. The mix of theory and reality was a good equilibrium. Although for someone who has not read much about urban planning some important theories and concepts are quickly explained in two or three sentences.

Overall this is a great must read for anyone interested in urban planning but I feel that anyone working to change society in a positive way would benefit from reading it.

Finally, I with Sam spent more tim
Matt Alexander
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a very left-oriented critique of the planning profession, and as a planner, I can't really argue against any of the points made. I would say that the book reads a bit like a very long shit-post about the planning profession and development in north america. The long section about Donald Trump's family serves as an example of how one family was able to exploit the planning and development industry for their own benefit, but Trump is obviously a unique case. There are many more landlords a ...more
Paul Horowitz
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Housing is a basic human need. But under capitalism, profit comes first. The basic contradiction between those two truths play out in diverse mechanism, well analyzed in Stein's book. Big capital behind big real estate, especially in urban centers, manages to subvert all approaches - zoning, density, tax schemes, etc. Stein shows how every approach other than decommidifying housing altogether has its flaws. The argument is well written, and fierce. As it should be.
Matthew McCarthy
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thorough, readable history of urban planning and a persuasive articulation of the frustrating challenges facing municipal planners, who, although often armed with the best intentions, ultimately service the powerful in what Stein convincingly terms the "Real Estate State." If you care at all about how cities are spatially organized and believe another vision is possible (and desirable), read this book.
Thomas Breen
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
An insightful analysis and critique of the real estate state, the rise of the political influence of landlords, developers and real estate investors in American cities in the absence of manufacturing and industrial capital, the pressure they put on city governments and city planners in particular to always inflate the value of land, of potential rents. Here lies the path to understanding urban capital in its 21st century form, and the push for socialized land that may disrupt it if enough tenant ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: housing
The first 150 pages show in very specific ways why it is so difficult to form an adequate organizing strategy for subverting displacement and decommodifying housing in any city. The incentive structures for city planners are complex and learning about them was helpful and humbling. Stein does eventually get around to offering nine achievable policies on pp 159-169. They seem good and I had only heard of a few of them before. Overall: Fun read, not too demanding, learned a lot of new concepts.
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extremely readable introduction to the various ways in which private capital shapes our cities, with a specific focus on how planners are implicated in such a process. being a rural bumpkin, i'm a big dumb-dumb on cities, so it was fantastic to have clear definitions of "upzoning" etc. it includes fun quotes like this one from nyc deputy mayor alicia glen: "You have certain tools in your municipal toolbox. We can't change the entire history of capitalism and we're not Trotsky." Stein is judiciou ...more
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clear, accessible writing makes this short book stand out. While the book's focus is on New York, the underlying mechanics of urban planning as the crew who are rolling out the red carpet for the elite, and fueling high rents for the rest of us, is a global phenomenon. And I am glad this book is out there to shine a light on what are often hidden or at least obscure practices.
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I want to give this 5 stars, but the 4th chapter (the one about trump) was a bit of a drag that I didn't feel furthered the overall argument. That chapter felt like it didn't live up too it's potential. Other than that, I thought it was a well-articulated argument that speaks to the imperative to wrest our cities away from developers.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Incredibly well researched and an interesting read. I would’ve given it four stars but at some points the author gets caught in his own politics instead of following his research and negates some of the forward momentum he had built.
Rachel Waldman
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-list
We get it. You hate Capitalism.
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
enjoyable and interesting if not revelatory; more of a primer than a deep dive or history
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
File under: Horror
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an essential book for understanding how the economy has morphed over the last 40 years and the impact these changes have had on cost of rent and housing.
Joe Huennekens
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A useful polemic—planners as “wealth managers”
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clear, incisive, and upsetting. Must read for anyone who lives in a city.
Erikk Hokenson
It may only be mid-May, but I'm confident I just finished the most important book of 2019.
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Apr 27, 2019
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Jacob Woocher
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May 15, 2019
Denis Loof
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Apr 06, 2019
Richard Cook
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Jun 19, 2019
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“This is the real estate state, a government by developers, for developers. It is not monolithic; there are plenty of disputes within it. Builders' desires are not always the same as owners', as reflected in the presence of separate developer and landlord lobbies in New York. Nonprofit developers follow a somewhat different model than for-profit builders. And of course government is still accountable to voters, who are by and large either renters or mortgage holders and continue to organize collectively against real estate's rule. But the parameters for planning are painfully narrow: land is a commodity and also is everything atop it; property rights are sacred and should never be impinged; a healthy real estate market is the measure of a healthy city; growth is good-- in fact, growth is god.” 0 likes
“It is a horrible atmosphere for planners interested in social reproduction, let alone social transformation. Planners are allowed to do little that won't raise property values. Often they do so directly and intentionally, by initiating rezonings, targeting tax breaks or gutting protective regulations in order to stimulate development. Just as often, however, increased property values are the result of genuine, socially beneficial land improvements. Public improvements become private investment opportunities as those who own the land reap the benefits of beautiful urban design and improved infrastructure. Those who cannot afford the resulting rising rents (or, in the case of homeowners, rising property assessments) are expelled: priced out, foreclosed, evicted, made homeless, or, in the best case scenario, granted a one-time buyout that will not afford them a new home in the neighborhood, or even the city.” 0 likes
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