An NYU professor of social and cultural analysis investigates poverty and housing insecurity in Osceola County, Florida—home to Disney World, real estate speculation and extreme poverty that has left many residents homeless.
Sunbelt Blues is a kind of ethnographic revisit: a check-in with old research subjects to see how things are going. The answer is discouraging ... While Ross completed this book largely before the pandemic, he makes it painfully clear that investors are once again circling distressed homeowners who are behind on their mortgages. They have even acknowledged building up their cash reserves to snap at deals when eviction moratoriums expire. While the book is anchored in the decline of Celebration and the housing chaos of Route 192 just past its borders, the mouse ears nearby cast a big shadow ... The coda to Ross’s adroitly written book focuses on the continued fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Higher housing prices, less job security, and the search for work across state lines may normalize the peripatetic life of weekly motel rentals for the working class priced out of cities.
This book will have particular interest for libraries in the Sunbelt, but it’s not just about Florida: full-time minimum wage workers can barely afford rent anywhere in the nation. Ross calls to end market-driven housing and empower residents to make reform; for dwellers and policy-makers, reading this book may be a first step toward that empowerment.
... unsettling ... Although sections dealing with the predatory economics of the housing market can be dry, the author’s focus on details of place and real peoples’ lives makes for poignant, engaging reading, punctuating the conclusion that 'alternatives to the market delivery model for housing are desperately needed.' An important snapshot of the sorry effect of the housing crisis on the environment and society.