Home as investment: Housing markets and cultures of urban change in Houston
Espino, Nilson Ariel
Marcus, George E.
Doctor of Philosophy
The dissertation is an ethnographic study of the conventions and practices of the actors of the US middle-class housing market concerning housing and neighborhood architectural change and management and its perceived relation to the protection of real estate investments. The ethnography takes as its starting point the widespread concern of the middle-class sector of American society with the preservation of residential "property values" and attempts to understand the interaction between more traditional (sociocultural) middle-class landscape "conservatism"---as reflected in a restrictive attitude towards neighborhood change---and the symbolic demands of large-scale housing markets with which homeowners engage for purposes of wealth accumulation and social mobility. The research explores the ways in which middle-class neighborhoods are managed, improved and controlled with the purposes of protecting and improving home values and explores the large-scale urban impacts of these behaviors and ideas. The research also includes a critique of this model of city management insofar as it entails housing discrimination, urban segregation and spatial exclusion for the urban poor. An informal comparison with Latin American urban growth patterns is made. The research takes place in the City of Houston, Texas and involves interviews and participant-observation fieldwork.
Cultural anthropology; Architecture; Urban planning; Regional planning