Faculty Spotlight

June Faculty Spotlight with Associate Professor, Hilary Botein

June 16 Faculty Spotlight

Affordable housing is on many New Yorkers minds. In fact, a recent NY-1 Baruch College City Poll found that the most important problem facing the city today, for the first time, was affordable housing. Associate Professor Botein has made this the focus of her research and teaching. In our June faculty spotlight, she discusses her upcoming classes, the challenges of affordable housing, and how New York City fits into the equation.

What are some of the greatest challenges for policymakers when addressing affordable housing?
I would identify three challenges as most significant. First, there is no right to housing in the United States, in contrast to many other countries. Second, the federal government has choked off funding for what affordable housing exists. Third, incomes have fallen as housing costs have increased, so the number of households that can't afford housing has grown. Yet, there is remarkably little interest in housing as an issue. It has barely been mentioned by the Presidential candidates.

Do you feel that parallels can be made between New York City and other, smaller or less global cities when it comes to affordable housing or is NYC a completely different animal in this respect?
NYC always likes to think of itself as a special snowflake, and in some ways it is. Most notably, there is a seemingly endless supply of people who just are not price-sensitive who want to live in New York. That is one reason why prices have spiraled out of control in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. And, to the city's credit, it has a long history of using a significant chunk of its capital budget for affordable housing, which is unusual.

But the same problems of affordability are plaguing other, smaller cities. It is perhaps ironic that when people leave NYC because they can no longer afford to live here, they end up gentrifying other places whose long-term residents don't have skills that can get them the jobs they need to pay higher housing costs. The cycle continues.

What classes will you be teaching in the upcoming semester?
In the fall, I will be teaching a graduate class in Housing Policy and an undergraduate class in Housing and Community Development Policy. I have taught the two together before and it's fun, although sometimes a bit of a challenge for my middle-aged brain to keep the two straight! I'm looking forward to updating my syllabi.

I'm beginning work on a long-term project about homeownership, so I'm going to incorporate some of that work into my courses. Matthew Desmond's new book, Evicted, has gotten a lot of attention and is a gripping read, so I want to figure out how students can read some or all of it. And there is a bunch of new work on gentrification, which is always of interest to students because it directly affects them and their families.