The Politics of Staying Put - Author Talk with Carolyn Gallaher

The Politics of Staying Put - Author Talk with Carolyn Gallaher

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"A semi-ethnographic examination of efforts in one U.S. city to curb gentrification by harnessing the paradoxical power of the condominium to mitigate turnover even as it generates it. The Politics of Staying Put is a deeply researched study of tenant empowerment that makes an important contribution to debates in the social sciences about displacement, neighborhood governance, and apartment living, challenging the dominant view of the condo as yuppie. Rich fieldwork and case studies illustrate how communities can — and cannot — successfully challenge the market in an era of rapid urban transformation."—Matthew Gordon Lasner, Assistant Professor, Hunter College, author of High Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century

When cities gentrify, it can be hard for working-class and low-income residents to stay put. Rising rents and property taxes make buildings unaffordable, or landlords may sell buildings to investors interested in redeveloping them into luxury condos. 

In her engaging study The Politics of Staying Put, Carolyn Gallaher focuses on a formal, city-sponsored initiative—The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA)—that helps people keep their homes. This law, unique to the District of Columbia, allows tenants in apartment buildings contracted for sale the right to refuse the sale and purchase the building instead. In the hands of tenants, a process that would usually hurt them—conversion to a condominium or cooperative—can instead help them. 

Taking a broad, city-wide assessment of TOPA, Gallaher follows seven buildings through the program's process. She measures the law's level of success and its constraints. Her findings have relevance for debates in urban affairs about condo conversion, urban local autonomy, and displacement. 

Carolyn Gallaher is Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University. She is the author of On the Fault Line: Race, Class, and the American Patriot Movement, and After the Peace: Loyalist Paramilitaries in Post-accord Northern Ireland.