Home: Free Sociology! is a front for Nathanael Lauster, Author of The Death and Life of the Single-Family House: Lessons from Vancouver on Building a Livable City, Co-editor of The End of Children?, and Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of British Columbia. See my departmental profile here. All thoughts are my own, and a surprisingly large number of them seem to involve housing, immigration, books, and cities. FAQ below…
What do I think of cities?
I’d love to see North American cities become more diverse, more welcoming, more inclusive, and more sustainable. I’m pretty sure this should involve changes to the built environment, enabling more people to share land and take transit, bike, or walk to work. I think apartment bans and related exclusionary practices should be overturned (every neighbourhood for everyone!) I’d also like to see a much larger and diverse stock of non-market housing to complement various kinds of market housing. I’ve been heavily influenced by Iris Marion Young’s vision of the City as a model for thinking about Justice and the Politics of Difference. If this vision appeals to you, we should probably be friends.
Do I think living in houses is bad?
Nope. My book is primarily a scholarly excavation of single-family detached houses and peoples’ present-day interactions with them. Where I delve into advocacy, I aim to open up alternatives and question whether single-family detached houses should be deserving of the special moral approbation, legal protection, and vast land set-asides they currently receive (spoiler: probably not). Living in houses is fine. Shutting down alternatives is not.
Am I a developer shill?
Nope. I’m paid by UBC. I’ve also done a bit of consulting work, primarily as an expert witness, where my duty is to the court, and for government agencies like the CMHC. I generally support the work of organizations, like the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and Abundant Housing Vancouver, aimed at providing more housing options for people – especially those left out by current market provision. I also generally support policies like rent control, rental stock protections, higher property taxes, and empty homes taxes.
Do I think housing should be a right?
Yes. As I explain in this post, I see my advocacy as human rights based, with special attention to the right to housing, freedom to move, and freedom of association. I think there are still a lot of details left to be worked out in how best to advocate for these rights, balancing them with one another and in consideration of related rights (property rights, right to privacy, etc.). But I think a human rights framework- including a right to housing for all – is a great way to ground advocacy and work toward better policy.
Do I think everyone who supports a foreign buyer tax or ban or otherwise disagrees with me on some policy is a racist?
Nope. I think the underlying logic of the Foreign Buyer Tax and similar policies blaming foreign elements for local problems is troublesome and in practice bleeds over into ugly anti-immigrant sentiment. But widespread support for the tax reflects many things, and racism is only part of the mix. More broadly, there are lots of people I respect who support policies I don’t support because they see things differently. And generally having lots of perspectives in the public sphere is a good thing. When you get invested in how policies work, you get lots of disagreements, even when you have similar visions of where you want policy to take you.
Why should anyone care what I think?
My job as a sociology professor is to think about stuff, gather observations on things, and report back. Too often academics just speak to each other, and do so in arcane and obscure ways. This blog is an attempt to report my thinking and observations in a more public manner and contribute what I can to broader discussion.