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Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate [Kindle Edition]

Lisa Prevost
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

An exploration of the corrosive effects of overpriced housing, exclusionary zoning, and the flight of the younger population in the Northeast

Winner of the 2014 Bruss Silver Award and First-Time Author Award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors

Towns with strict zoning are the best towns, aren't they? They're all about preserving local "character," protecting the natural environment, an dmaintaining attractive neighborhoods. Right? 

In this bold challenge to conventional wisdom, Lisa Prevost strips away the quaint façades of these desirable towns to reveal the uglier impulses behind their proud allegiance to local control. These eye-opening stories illustrate the outrageous lengths to which town leaders and affluent residents will go to prohibit housing that might attract the “wrong” sort of people. Prevost takes readers to a rural second-home community that is so restrictive that its celebrity residents may soon outnumber its children, to a struggling fishing village as it rises up against farmworker housing open to Latino immigrants, and to a northern lake community that brazenly deems itself out of bounds to apartment dwellers. From the blueberry barrens of Down East to the Gold Coast of Connecticut, these stories show how communities have seemingly cast aside the all-American credo of “opportunity for all” in favor of “I was here first.”
Prevost links this “every town for itself” mentality to a host of regional afflictions, including a shrinking population of young adults, ugly sprawl, unbearable highway congestion, and widening disparities in income and educational achievement. Snob Zones warns that this pattern of exclusion is unsustainable and raises thought-provoking questions about what it means to be a community in post-recession America.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


“Lisa Prevost masterfully chronicles how suburban and rural communities raise land-use drawbridges to exclude not just racial minorities and the poor but also middle-class families and the young. The cost of such exclusion is huge, and Prevost makes a powerful case for greater inclusion to strengthen local economies and community vitality.” —Chuck Collins, author of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It
“In Snob Zones, Lisa Prevost elegantly reveals the senselessness of NIMBYism, and the myriad ways in which affluent communities, in the name of self-interest, harm themselves and American society. A must-read for people who give a damn and want to gain insights on how we can do better, for ourselves and our children.” —Sheryll Cashin, author of The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream
“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. . . . [H]ousing 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.” —Publishers Weekly

“Prevost nicely connects the overarching trend of an ever more expensive housing market with a series of profiles of New England towns determined to bar all but the most costly single-family homes.” —Boston Real Estate Now

About the Author

Lisa Prevost is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine, More, Ladies’ Home Journal, and other publications. A native New Englander, she has lived and worked as a reporter in four of the six New England states. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1276 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (May 7, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008ED6AL8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #624,570 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars About half the story July 10, 2013
By Rich
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A well-written but one-sided view of so-called exclusionary zoning. There's some good background material here, especially on the history of each of the featured locales. But the author relies overmuch on sources that provide conclusions that support her theory that this is really about snobbery rather than actually challenging both sides to explain their reasoning. She's on her shakiest ground defending for-profit developers who are simply using affordable housing laws to achieve a fast buck in built-out communities that can't hope to hit state targets any time soon. And her suggestion that modern day zoning is still mostly driven by racism and religious intolerance is absurd, and unsupported by actual reporting. Another 50 pages devoted to thinking through the topic at a deeper level would have yielded a better and more credible book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dreamscape zoning November 11, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
An unfortunate choice of name for the book, it confused effect with intent. While there are clear and glaring examples of snob zoning, I find, living in New England, most zoning is based on sentiment and woods preservation.

A great deal of high barrier zoning does in fact blockade the majority. Not only poor but also elderly, young adults and young families. Much of the fear based zoning has caused unintended consequences and this book would've been more useful and valuable had it reached into the unintended consequences and provide smart growth solutions that integrate into rural character.

In the mean time, New England towns, in an attempt to preserve rural character, has zoned McMansion clusters with retail raceways running through towns. And there is nothing rural about either.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading September 17, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A troubling and thoughtful look at the efforts of five affluent, and not atypical, New England communities to "raise the drawbridge." Each story is a different aspect of the general trend to keep lovely towns free of the poor, minorities, day trippers and other non-white, non-rich undesirables. Irrational and often illegal, big money's need to preserve a community's homogeneity is ultimately harmful, both to the towns themselves and to the larger region. Even if a bit strident, Prevost doesn't shy away from the complexities of the issue. I don't usually pick up books about politics and social questions, but Snob Zones, short and readable, made me glad I tried something new.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Milbridge not a Snob Zone! October 8, 2013
By johnr
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
On the whole, Ms Prevost's book gives enlightening portraits of the ways zoning, preservation, etc. have been used to "keep out the undesireables." It reminded me of LANDSCAPES OF PRIVILEGE, which was a similiar look at Bedford, NY. I disagreed with her chapter on Milbridge, ME. My late parents and grandparents have lived there, as does a cousin and his family. The trouble she describes is less folks trying to be "aryans from Darien" and more a case of people who see that they have had dig hard for their lives and see what comes across as someone getting something for nothing. You don't have to be a racist or snob to be upset at that perception, as incorrect as it might be.
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More About the Author

Lisa Prevost is the author of "Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate" (Beacon Press, 2013). She is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine, More, Ladies' Home Journal, and other publications. A native New Englander, she has lived and worked as a reporter in four of the six New England states. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Photo Credit: Douglas Healey, 2012.


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