Today, one in five homeowners in American cities and suburbs lives in a multifamily home rather than a single-family dwelling. As the American dream evolves, precipitated by declining real estate prices and a renewed interest in city living, many predict that condos will become the predominant form of housing in the 21st century. In this unprecedented study Matthew Gordon Lasner explores the history of co-owned multifamily housing in the United States, from New York City’s first co-op, in 1881, to contemporary condo and townhouse complexes coast to coast. Lasner explains the complicated social, economic, and political factors that have increased demand for this way of living, situating the trend within the larger housing market and broad shifts in residential architecture. He contrasts the prevalence and popularity of condos, townhouses, and other privately governed communities with their ambiguous economic, legal, and social standing, as well as their striking absence from urban and architectural history.
Matthew Gordon Lasner is an Associate Professor of Urban Studies and planning at Hunter College, City University of New York, where he teaches courses on urbanism, US and global housing, and the built environment. He is the author of High-Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century.