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June 2017 Vol. 54 No. 10

Temple University Press

The following review appeared in the June 2017 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences
Political Science - Comparative Politics

Lauster, Nathanael Thomas. The death and life of the single-family house: lessons from Vancouver on building a livable city. Temple, 2016. 246p bibl index ISBN 9781439913932, $94.50; ISBN 9781439913949 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9781439913956 ebook, $34.95.

Lauster (Univ. of British Columbia) offers an engaging case study of metropolitan Vancouver, detailing its rise and decline in single-family housing while suggesting other North American cities follow Vancouver’s regulatory path to reverse debilitating influences on our climate and democracy. Based on extensive archival research, complemented with insightful interviews of residents, the work targets a cross section of urban studies, environmental sustainability, and cultural as well as economic sociology. Frequently touted as North America’s “most livable” city, Vancouver was not always an international model for sustainability and urbanism. As an early proponent of house-oriented zoning bylaws, it mimicked much of North America with energy intensive housing that fostered car dependence and discouraged public interaction. Lauster deftly outlines three core influences here: the house as a cultural idea, market commodity, and regulatory creature. Together, these explain how and why the middle class defended their image of success from an advancing urban core. Beginning in the 1960s, though, Vancouver broke from this tradition that promotes social inequality and erodes democracy and adopted planning principles that echo New Urbanism and foster Richard Florida’s “creative class” with higher density and more affordable development.

--M. Gunter Jr., Rollins College

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.