Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice and Real Estate

Lisa Prevost. Beacon, $26.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0157-8
This collection of comprehensively reported accounts of ugly local politics spawned by the absence of affordable housing in New England towns is an earnest but slow-moving examination of distasteful and often illegal behavior that takes the “not in my back yard” credo to its tawdry low point. Journalist Prevost tackles the abuses of restrictive zoning in communities from affluent Darien, Conn., to hardscrabble Milbridge, Maine, examining the “point at which controls on growth and development cross the line to unnecessary, purely self-interested exclusion.” She traces the effects of a century-old legal prejudice against high-density housing in New England, a densely settled region with little room for suburban sprawl. Some of the corrective measure included Massachusetts’s “anti-snob zoning law” supporting the construction of affordable housing, even in quaint villages that boast historic roots. From the exploits of savvy gadfly developers upending ritzy Connecticut suburbs with plans for high-density housing scattered amid posh colonial houses to an aging New Hampshire town struggling with deep-rooted prejudices, Prevost charts a national problem on a local level. While housing policy analysts and populists will nod in assent to her well-drawn critiques of the “fortress mentality” that makes local restrictions understandable from within and unconscionable from without, the focus is often so tight that even a sympathetic reader can lose interest. Agent: Lynn Johnston, Lynn Johnston Literary. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 05/07/2013
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