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Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  73 ratings  ·  19 reviews
How the homes we live in turned into the monsters that ate our economy and how the United States became a nation obsessed with real estate.

Our Lot tells how an entire nation got swept up in real estate mania, and it casts the business story--the collapse of the mortgage markets and its global impact on the economy--as the product of a decades-long project of social engine
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Aug 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Everybody knows bits and pieces about what caused the real estate boom and bust in America. No doubt, most of you have experienced rapid growth in home wealth, followed by a catastrophic drop in value. But, until you digest a comprehensive review of the mitigating factors from all components of the mortgage economy, you will not have a complete, balanced, and mature understanding of the current real estate crisis. Like politics, if you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain; similarly, i ...more
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've had countless conversations about the economy and the housing bubble since the recession began, but Alyssa Katz really informed me in specifics about the long and short-term conditions behind the mortgage/housing crisis. This book read like a really long but interesting in-depth Mother Jones article. I recommend it for anyone who's gotten into arguments with others about who's to blame for this economy and our messy land-use results.
Subtitled “How Real Estate Came to Own Us”, Katz’s book attempts to explain the explosive growth of the United States real estate market and the development of mortgage-backed securities leading to the housing bubble and the economic crisis of 2008. Starting right at the start of the Great Depression, Katz explains how President Roosevelt saw construction of homes — not just the bridges and tunnels history books highlight — as a key tool to jump starting the economy and putting Americans back to ...more
Through no fault of the author, I just couldn't make it through this book. The research is top notch, Katz does a wonderful job of telling the story of the mortgage crisis through the lens of individuals, families, and communities, and I truly believe that she is doing so in the smallest words possible. But the whole system is set up with the express purpose of making it hard enough to understand that we peons of economics, illiterate in the jargon of the financial sector, get frustrated and qui ...more
Jul 22, 2009 rated it liked it
"Our Lot" provides a good synopsis of the national obsession with real estate. The early chapters explains how housing advocates pushed for greater lending to minority and other underserved communities that were subjected to historic discrimination through red-lining and "blockbusting." It also explains how greater home ownership by minorities was promoted as a national goal by successive administrations, i.e, Clinton and Bush. For a better explanation of how subprime lending lead to the current ...more
Dec 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: urban-planning
Not a book I'd be accused of reading normally, but Our Lot is a digestible review of the Housing meltdown that came in late 2007. Katz details; with various characters, locations, and housing-types, how so many people came to sign-up for life-long debt by making a house the new vehicle for financial investment.

While its been accused of being a little biased against the financial industry, I thought this book did a successful job of being even-handed regarding the crisis. While the housing indus
The Angry Lawn Gnome
There was some quite interesting historical background to the housing crisis of 2006-? provided early on in this book that I had not heard before. Going back to the Johnson and Nixon administrations. Unfortunately, the closer the book drew to the present the more superficial the coverage of the topic seemed to become....But one person's "superficial" is another's "excellent summary" so perhaps for someone who does not know much about what happened and is looking to become more informed about thi ...more
Caroline Herbert
Aug 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
First, full disclosure--the author is a friend from college, which is how I came to read the book. I'm glad I did, because I found it to be an engaging story tracing back to the origins of our current mortgage and credit/debt crisis. Alyssa has a talent for explaining complexities like mortgage-backed securities and financial deregulation in terms this layperson can understand. I now have a much better grasp of how we got ourselves into this mess! Plus her talent for storytelling made the vignet ...more
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
So far great! I love the real day stories of homeowners and real estate investors using government programs to their advantage. We will see the downfall here quickly, is my prediction in future chapters. I thought the Clinton home incentives could have been the cause of it. I had to read the first chapter two times to understand the Chicago and FHA situations. Sounded very discriminatory. Well, definetly a great read for me.

Aug 09, 2009 rated it liked it
The first half of the book was quite good, detailing the history of home ownership and how it turned into a frenzy after 2001. The second half veered into a history of land schemes in Florida and peculiarities of New York City real estate, and was less interesting to me. The author's defense of rent control laws was also a bit baffling.

Still, it's a good read about the greed, fraud, and stupidity that was the housing for the first few years of this century.
Nov 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
If it's not obvious, I love reading about real estate. Not so much on the how to side but more on the social/historical/economical aspects. This was a really readable history of lending and mortgage practices and how we got to where we are now with foreclosures. As I read it, I thought it was fairly even handed on the blame aspect. I think we've glossed over people's greed too much in the current environment, and I think Katz covered that fairly well.
Cheree Moore
May 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
The substance of this particular book made me mad at the government (Democrats & Republicans) as well as at private industry (at least the individuals who perpetuated mortgage fraud). It looks into the history of real estate and the patterns that have been repeated since the 1920s when Americans traded their freedom for debt.

Complete review at
Katie Ann
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful account of the changes in housing policy in America over time and their role in the mortgage crisis. I found the book to be complete in its telling of all the elements that contributed to how we view American housing today, particularly the information about the Community Reinvestment Act.
Aug 31, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was pretty detailed and made me realize how much I have to learn before attempting to join the homeowning world. More interesting was reading it during a week of frenetic debate on health care reform. First there was the giant real estate bust, and now we can't even unify on much-needed changes to a radically broken system. Happy days in the U.S.A.
Oct 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A must-read. Really gives a sense of what's gone on in the housing market that will make you want to stay the hell away. She calls what happened organized crime, and from all I can see, I think she's right.
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I needed to claim my life back from Claire & Jamie, and this nonfiction make on the current day economic crisis is about as far from Gabaldon as you can get. Eye-opening, especially from a planner's perspective. ...more
Miriam Axel-lute

Having spent a decent amount of time following these topics for work, it was still impressive to me how much I had to learn about the details of how the real estate market spiraled out of control so badly. Highly recommended.
Jul 10, 2010 marked it as to-read
my friend alyssa wrote this, and while i haven't read it yet, the reviews are fantastic and i have no doubt it's a great book.
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
I really liked this version of the explanation of the housing crisis – covered all the bases.
Oluwarotimi Lademo
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Gary Rivlin
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Alyssa Katz is a member of the editorial board of the New York Daily News. She is the author of Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us (Bloomsbury, 2009), about the making of the mortgage crisis.

Alyssa was previously editor of The New York World, an investigative newsroom embedded at Columbia Journalism School, and of City Limits, an award-winning magazine investigating the institutions and poli

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Theodor Geisel said...
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