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Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us Paperback – Bargain Price, July 6, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This richly detailed analysis of the recent (and ignominious) history of the American real estate market opens on a note of false optimism: in 1991, after 20 years of toil, urban housing activist Gale Cincotta successfully argued that Congress should require that 40% of the home loans issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac go to low-income buyers. The Clinton administration extended this campaign for higher ownership rates among low-income populations throughout the 1990s. Katz, a journalism professor at New York University, draws on an impressive number of interviews and thorough secondary research to illuminate the disastrous consequences of pushing underqualified buyers into ownership. Many of the topics she addresses will be familiar to readers by now—predatory subprime loans, get-rich-quick house flipping schemes, scandalous mortgage frauds—but Katz writes with authority and empathy. The many people the author interviews, from the single mother in Cleveland who lost her house just two years after buying it to the family living near Sacramento whose new home is already falling apart, become the heroes, victims and sometimes culprits in this gripping account of collective irresponsibility. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A trenchant chronicle of how ‘all that had been sacred about home lending' was upended.” ―New York Times

“Replete with informative background and vivid descriptions of the carnage that the housing crisis has wreaked on communities from Cleveland to Sacramento.” ―Boston Globe

“The book's main strength lies in Katz's thoroughness and human touch. Her interviews with predators and victims are as engaging as they are troubling.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer

“To read Our Lot is to relive, in painful, anecdotal detail, the real estate bust that brought our economy low. Through Alyssa Katz…we remeet the exploited homeowners and the naive investors, and we cringe again at the blundering politicians and opportunistic lenders.” ―Salon

Our Lot is a sobering account of the origins of our current mortgage crisis. Katz methodically, and with great precision, traces the roots of homeownership in American society. Leaving few stones unturned, Our Lot provides an incisive analysis of the rational and speculative decisions that have made America so susceptible to the twists and turns of the housing industry. The book is a timely historical account, but its lessons are clear and penetrating for the contemporary era.” ―Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for a Day

Our Lot is a page-turning tale of how a real estate boom was conjured on a foundation of false hopes and Wall Street alchemy. Alyssa Katz digs deeply into the devastation that reckless lending and cynical speculation visited upon American places like Cleveland, Ohio, and Lee County, Florida. Her book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the roots of our nation's housing crisis.” ―Michael Hudson, coauthor of Merchants of Misery

“With the real estate crisis blighting thousands of neighborhoods and millions of lives, Alyssa Katz's lucid, coolly outraged new book is an absolutely essential guide to how it all happened. Katz had the prescience to see what was coming, and her deeply researched, historically grounded book can help us all avoid similar catastrophes in the future.” ―Michelle Goldberg, author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World

“Brilliantly researched and tightly argued, Our Lot reveals the untold story of the housing crisis through the eyes of the victims and villains that created it.” ―Christopher Hayes, the Nation

“Richly detailed analysis of the recent (and ignominious) history of the American real estate market... Katz, a journalism professor at New York University, draws on an impressive number of interviews and thorough secondary research to illuminate the disastrous consequences of pushing underqualified buyers into ownership... Katz writes with authority and empathy. The many people the author interviews, from the single mother in Cleveland who lost her house just two years after buying it to the family living near Sacramento whose new home is aready falling apart, become the heroes, victims and sometimes culprits in this gripping account of collective irresponsibility.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608192059
  • ASIN: B005Q69JJQ
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,271,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William W. Thomas on June 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you are at all curious about how we got to the disaster we currently face in the housing market, this is an excellent overview. It puts the current crisis into a broad context, showing how even well-intentioned changes in housing policy decades in the past created the breeding ground for the housing bubble and accompanying toxic mortgage debt crisis. "Our Lot" is effective both on the macro and micro level - Alyssa Katz handles both complicated policy histories and tragic personal stories of people caught up in the housing bubble with sensitivity and depth. She also raises some fundamental questions about the "American Dream" of home ownership, and whether we need some new dreams. A great work of journalism.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is right up there with John Talbot's books in detailing the causes and the effects of the housing bubble on America. It is a "page turner" that names names, and examines in depth the gullibility of Americans who should have known much better, for "get-rich-quick" Ponzi schemes that simply made no sense even if they did have the imprimater of Alan Greenspan and both Republican and Democratic presidents. Perhaps most important, Alyssa Katz shows us why the housing crash will not be going away anytime soon as it's ultimate evil was that it converted us into a nation of debters who voluntarily sold themselves literally into debt/wage slavery and inevitably poverty while enriching a small number of creditors.
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Format: Hardcover
"Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us" by Alyssa Katz, a liberal journalist and NYU journalism professor who writes for Mother Jones, is the best book yet on how the sacred cause of "diversity" merged with pedal-to-the-metal capitalism to bring us the Great Mortgage Meltdown.

The book hasn't garnered the attention it deserves -- probably because it makes clear the bipartisan responsibility of both her opponents on the Right and her friends on the Left.

Our Lot focuses equally on the misdeeds of both capitalists and leftists. But I won't give the boiler room boys as much attention in this review because they're a more familiar tale, while Katz's reporting on the role of her side is compelling "testimony against interest".

Katz is remarkably frank about how government programs and political pressure to boost minority homeownership helped blow up the economy. She's particularly good at explicating how leftist housing activists, such as ACORN and Gale Cincotta, the godmother of the Community Reinvestment Act, worked with Democratic politicians such as Bill Clinton, HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, and Jim Johnson, CEO of Fannie Mae, to lay the groundwork for the Bubble and Bust.

Katz doesn't devote quite as much depth to the Bush Administration's culpability (which, to my mind, is even greater). Perhaps she lacked Republican contacts to give her the kind of inside story she got on her own party's mistakes.

Still, Our Lot makes clear that on housing policy, the Clinton-Bush years form a single continuum with one overarching plan: boost the minority homeownership rate by lowering credit standards. I call it the Era of Multi-Culti Capitalism.

And there's little reason to think that its lessons have been learned yet.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read many well written books and this tome ranks highly among them. Ms. Katz digs deep into the underlying causes of the current economic morass that our nation is languishing through. She uses many factual accounts to help illustrate the machinations that brought us to this point. As a conservative, conventional homeowner I was mystified by how so many people got into so much trouble through the acquisition of a property. As a 401k/403b holder I was also stupefied by how my investments could tank so hard & so very rapidly. Ms. Katz explains just how this could, and did, happen. Her writing is direct and to the point but flows well and is an easy read for such a technical work. I have to admit to still being somewhat confused, but I fear that is on account of my understanding and not her writing. I only hope that Barney Frank and most of our other legislators take the time to read this work. Well done, Ms. Katz. What is your next challenge?
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good analysis of how mortgages and home ownership affects and even rules our
lives. But, more than that, it's about how the institution of home ownership and the
market for mortgages has been shaped, for profit, by powerful parties both in private
industry and inside the U.S. government. It's also an account of how we and our lives
have been shaped by those institutions.

The sections on the creation of the subprime loan balloon are astonishing. Katz tell us
what that froth was created from: fabricated information about borrows on loan papers,
appraisers who were willing to give the exaggerated estimates of property values that they
were asked for, attorneys and title agents and banks who signed the papers and pretended
not to notice.

And, so many of the firms involved (mortgage brokers, investment banks, Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac) made huge profits from these transactions. So, they became addicted to the
volume needed to produce those profits. As long as the money (= credit) flowed, and while
they could package and sell the loans, it did flow, they pursued that volume, even though
doing so required making loans to people who had little likelihood of making the required
payments on those loans.

The sections on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac give you an appreciation for how much damage
can be done (1) when there is a huge amount of money and (2) when companies with lots of
influence and the U.S. Congress work together. The details are fascinating, and Katz give
lots of them. It shows what happens when, instead of enabling people to earn a decent
living, the U.S. government helps them try to pretend that they are better off by giving
them lots of cheap credit.
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