School of Cities / Event

City Visions | Remaking the American Dream: The Informal and Formal Transformation of Single-Family Housing Cities

City Visions - Book talks exploring urban issues and visionary transformations

Sitting squarely at the center of the American Dream, the detached single-family home has long been the basic building block of most US cities. In Remaking the American Dream, Vinit Mukhija considers how this is changing, in both the American psyche and the urban landscape.

In defiance of long-held norms and standards, single-family housing is slowly but significantly transforming through incremental additions of second and third units. Drawing on empirical evidence of informal and formal changes, Remaking the American Dream documents homeowners’ quiet unpermitted modifications, conversions, and workarounds, as well as gradual institutional alterations to once-rigid local land-use regulations.

Book cover for Remaking the American Dream

The book is by Vinit Mukhija, Associate Professor of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His research focuses on informal housing and slums in developing countries and Third World-like housing conditions (including colonias, unpermitted trailer parks, and illegal garage apartments) in the United States. He is particularly interested in understanding the nature and necessity of informal housing, and strategies for upgrading and improving living conditions in unregulated housing. His work also examines how planners and urban designers in both developing and developed countries can learn from the everyday and informal city.

From February – June 2023, the School of Cities hosted the City Visions book series, featuring leading urban experts and authors exploring the urban issues and visionary transformations captured in their recent books.Topics ranged from de-industrialization to single-family housing and from innovation districts to housing market segregation, and every event featured the author in conversation with a moderator and fellow urban affairs expert.