Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing, by Diana Lind, New York, Bold Type Books, 2020.
Reviewed by: Tony Filipovitch, Minnesota State University Mankato
We have been through so much in recent times: the subprime mortgage crisis, the Great Recession , the Pandemic. The traditional paradigms of where and how we live (and where and how we work) need to be revisited, particularly from the perspective of the Millennial generation who are struggling the most with these changes. So it was with some eagerness that I picked up Brave New Home by Diana Lind.
The first three chapters rehearse the history of American housing, albeit from the perspective of an urban apartment cliff-dweller. The second section examines four “new ways of living”: co-living arrangements, the tiny house movement, addressing the needs of diverse households at different stages of their life-cycle, and neighborhood-oriented healthy living partnerships. The final chapter is devoted to proposals for enabling such housing.
Lind promises more than she can deliver. Her story of the history of American housing is incomplete, and these omissions are significant not just for scholarly credibility, but for the story Lind wants to tell. All of her “new” home ideas have roots; they have been tried before, in different times and in different guises. And yet they have not established themselves as “traditional” the way the detached single-family home on its own lot has. The really instructive question going forward is why similar past efforts failed to take hold.
Still, this is a book worth reading, more for the questions it raises than the answers it supplies. It is useful for people interested in housing (policy, planning, development) to hear the new names and the “new” initiatives being created (even if it is old wine). But balance it with a deeper dive into its precursors in order to learn from the past as well as the present.
The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.
The reviewer may be reached via e-mail at Anthony.firstname.lastname@example.org.