As scholars committed to investigating and promoting permanently affordable and supportive housing, we are concerned that alternative forms of homeownership like Limited Equity Cooperatives, and related concepts like Community Land Trusts, have been marginalized in mainstream discourses.  We believe they have particular relevance in the context of current social and economic conditions and deserve renewed exploration, but we have noted the difficulty in finding reliable and detailed knowledge about alternative housing models as well as a lack of coordination across sectors to make use of this knowledge.

This site is meant to be a space where scholars, practitioners, policy makers, community organizers, activists, and others can share information around efforts to produce and sustain collectively owned, resident-controlled, and permanently affordable housing. Currently, it is being administered by the Housing Environments Research Group (HERG) at the City University of New York Graduate Center, but it is intended to be a resource for a wider community of people working on affordable housing- contributions to the resource library, blog roll, and overall effort are encouraged!

Please send articles, reports, suggestions, organization and event information to Hillary Caldwell at hcaldwell@gc.cuny.edu and she will include them on the site.  This is a work in progress so please bear with us as we proceed!

About the Housing Environments Research Group (HERG):

We are a research group in the Center for Human Environments at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and are made up of faculty and graduate students, primarily from the Environmental Psychology PhD program.  Our work brings together scholars and experts from a wide variety of disciplines to engage with communities, organizations, and governmental agencies to understand and improve housing and neighborhoods. HERG’s expertise includes environmental, social and developmental psychology, anthropology, sociology, architecture, urban planning, statistical and qualitative methods, as well as urban policy.

HERG’s research program seeks to:

▪   define and study the outcomes of community initiatives, housing programs and public policy

▪   understand and articulate residents’ efforts to organize for improvements in their housing and communities

▪   evaluate different housing programs and community development activities

▪   analyze and participate in community capacity building activities

▪   engage in basic inquiry on the meaning of homes and the effects of housing on human development and well-being

▪   translate knowledge about housing and community into design and policy

Working with residents and relevant organizations and institutions, HERG provides a theoretical framework for research and policy analysis that relates housing to individual and social development and political and economic forces. HERG is particularly interested in articulating the needs of traditionally under-represented groups by making their experiences, interests and their own efforts to improve their housing and communities more salient to policy-makers and housing providers. HERG emphasizes the importance of involving people and communities as participants with planners, designers, and researchers for issues that affect them. Much of the research is undertaken in partnership with residents and community organizations, often involving residents in the design, implementation, analysis, and interpretation of the research.

Susan Saegert is Professor of Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center where she has worked since receiving her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan in 1974. She is currently the chair of Environmental Psychology and acting  Director of the Center for Human Environments (CHE).  She was also the first director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her early research focused on crowding and environmental stressors. She then began to study the relationship between housing and human development and well being, as well as women and environments. Her research in inner city communities led her to focus less on how housing conditions can affect residents and more on how communities can affect housing conditions. With colleagues at CHE in the Housing Environments Research Group (HERG), she has worked in partnership with community organizations and coalitions to understand how to successfully improve distressed housing and neighborhoods in New York City. This work has also resulted in a book on social capital co-edited with two political scientists: S. Saegert, J.P. Thompson, & M. R. Warren (Eds.): Social capital and poor communities (Russell Sage, 2005). She has collaborated with governmental, non-profit, and private sector organizations and institutions on a range of projects including the plan for downtown Denver, housing for the elderly and persons with special needs, neighborhood based services for the elderly, and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 grant to Nashville TN. After Hurricane Katrina, she worked with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans on their recovery strategy. Her most recent research concerns homeowners’ experiences of the foreclosure crisis and their policy implications; the relationship of housing and health; and alternative housing policies to promote stable, sustainable affordable housing.  Her most recent books are  Freudenberg, N., Klitzman, S., & Saegert, S. (2009)   Urban Health and Society: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Research and Practice.Jossey Bass, and DeFilippis, J. & Saegert, S. (Eds) (in press). The Community Development Reader, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge.

Her professional activities have included serving as president of Division 34 on Population and Environment of the American Psychological Association, co-chairing the Environmental Design Research Association, serving on the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Urban Psychology, and chairing the APA Taskforce on Socio Economic Status. She has served on the editorial boards of Environment & Behavior and the Journal of Environmental Psychology for most of the last 20 years.

Hillary Caldwell is a PhD student in environmental psychology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  Her second year research project is a critical ethnographic inquiry into a “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC)” that reveals the sophistication of this community’s everyday production and a hidden trace of public investment.  She is interested in exploring how care, broadly conceived as a public good, can be produced and enabled through places, institutions, and practices in a just manner.

Desiree Fields is a doctoral candidate in environmental psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her dissertation research examines the role of housing crises in reshaping the urban landscape of New York City. This work brings together the city’s landlord abandonment crisis of the 1970s with the emergence of predatory speculation in the city’s affordable rental housing during the real estate boom of the mid 2000s. The project highlights the changing geography of destabilizing cycles of investment and disinvestment, the community impacts of these cycles, and the evolution of community-based efforts to preserve the quality and supply of affordable rental housing over decades of neoliberal restructuring. In previous research Fields has studied responses to mortgage foreclosure among low-income homeowners and community integration among formerly homeless individuals with mental illness. Her work has been published in The Journal of Urban Affairs; Housing, Theory and Society; Housing Policy Debate; The Journal of Urban Health; and Emotion, Space, and Society.

Kristen Hackett is a PhD student in environmental psychology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  Her research interests surround issues of critical consciousness development among urban youth of New York City.  Kristen formerly worked as a research associate at Partnership for the Homeless, a research, advocacy, and service non-profit located in New York City.

Pengfei Li is pursuing his PhD in environmental psychology program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He graduated from Wuhan University with a BA in philosophy. Then he did research in Ethics at the University of Notre Dame from 2008 to 2009. In the last three years, his research project focuses on Beijing’s suburbanization, specifically on how the newly built suburban community and the suburban development process influence suburbanites’ daily lives. He is highly interested in the normative/evaluative aspect of community, aiming at investigating the humanistic and ethical issues regarding China’s recent urban and suburban developments. Recently, he is working on a wholesale urban renewal project in a county seat in central China, studying its process and impacts.

Mariya Marinova is a PhD student in Environmental Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is interested in displacement due to man-made and natural disasters, place attachment, and immigration. She has worked as a field researcher and assistant for several non-profit organizations in Jersey City on projects with youth, homeless people and people with disabilities, and as an assistant director of leadership and community development and sustainability program at Saint Peter’s College.

Jill Siegel is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation research examines conceptions of property relations among low-income urban people of color as they transition to homeownership in housing cooperatives, as well as the role of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), an organization in New York City that assists renters in their transformation into cooperative homeowners.  Through two years of ethnographic fieldwork in a Limited Equity Cooperative (LEC) in the Harlem/Washington Heights area, a historically African-American neighborhood that is experiencing gentrification as well as an influx of Latino immigrants, Siegel explores how residents negotiate their new roles as collective owners, not renters, as well as how these new economic and financial practices shape subjectivities and socialities, and the inextricable (and mutually constitutive) links with issues of race, ethnicity, gender and class. Siegel spent time with community organizations, government officials, other experts in the field of affordable finance, and takes part in public policy advocacy.  Her works also considers how LECs can protect housing affordability by taking property out of the speculative housing market.

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