The Housing Question a century and a half later

Notes from New York City

Jaime Jover

Published in Issue 4.2 // Updates

Keywords: Housing crisis, rent regulation, housing justice, social movements, New York City


New York City serves as an entry point for a brief reflection on today’s housing question. Drawing on Friedrich Engels’ inspiring work in the late 19th century, it is argued that some issues he pointed out are still present and have become endemic to the capitalist city, while others have emerged amidst recent economic and health crises. In the US economic growth machine and in one of the global capitals, working-class, vulnerable, and unemployed populations still suffer precarious and unworthy dwelling conditions, and finding a place to live is gradually becoming more complex. With many people struggling after the pandemic, homelessness is also growing. The situation comes after decades of defunding public housing, dismantling rent regulations, and neglecting welfare protections in an increasingly financialized housing market that privileges profits over human rights. However, these issues are not unique to NYC; similar accounts can be found throughout urban geographies worldwide. We need to think locally and globally about the current housing question, improve cooperation across housing justice groups and social movements, and prompt a debate about ways to rethink the tenancy regime alongside the capitalist system that has proven incapable of providing housing for everyone.

Jaime Jover is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Urban Studies at the Department of Human Geography, University of Seville, Spain. After stints at the Universities of Lisbon and Manchester, he held the Marilyn J. Gittell Post-Doc at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York between 2020 and 2022, where he became closer to the struggles around housing in NYC. His field of study is urban geography, specializing in critical theory, the politics of cultural heritage, and urban tourism. He is also co-founder of the Iberoamerican Network of Researchers in Politics, Conflicts, and Urban Movements.

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