Owned: A Tale of Two Americas
If you’ve been searching for a documentary that breaks down the housing market historically – well, we might have found one on Amazon Prime Video titled “Owned: A Tale of Two Americas.”
The 83-minute documentary unearths the complex and often troubling history of house policies in the US in a post–World War II era. It covers a lot of ground, such as the federal government’s housing policies that have, for decades, contribute to current racial/wealthy inequalities.
This is a bold attempt to address racial, cultural, socio-economic factors in one way to describe today’s record wealth inequalities.
Here’s a synopsis of the documentary:
The United States’ postwar housing policy created the world’s largest middle class. It also set America on two divergent paths — one of imagined wealth, propped up by speculation and endless booms-and-busts, and the other in systematically defunded, segregated communities, where the American dream feels hopelessly out of reach.
Some ten years after the last housing collapse and well into a perceived upswing, the election of Donald Trump and urban uprisings in places like Baltimore suggest that there’s a far more fundamental problem with housing policy in America. And we haven’t even begun to recover.
Owned is a incisive look into the dark history behind the US housing economy. Tracking its overtly racist beginnings to its unbridled commoditization, the doc exposes a foundational story few Americans understand as their own
“Home ownership to me means freedom—strictly. The more and more I evaluate this world, the more and more I understand: when you don’t own anything, you are nothing.” That’s how Greg Butler, a young black house flipper, sums up his view of the American dream.
In 2008, the US housing market became the epicenter of an unprecedented global economic collapse. In the years since, protests in cities like Baltimore have highlighted the stark racial disparities that define many American cities. The crash of suburbia and urban unrest are not unrelated — they are two sides of the same coin, two divergent paths set in motion by the United States’ post-war housing policy.
The prevailing narrative is that the migration from American cities that began in the 1950s, often referred to as “white flight,” was caused by the degradation of city centers and the growth of suburbia. But this was neither a matter of preference, nor a natural selfsegregation
After World War II, the US government sought to provide housing for returning veterans and their families, while enabling them to build wealth through homeownership. Postwar policies spurred a decadeslong construction boom and enabled millions of Americans to buy homes — and they benefited white people exclusively. So racial segregation determined how communities grew. Government policies directly subsidized white America, while denying opportunities to black people and other minorities
Here’s a statement from Giorgio Angelini, the director of the documentary:
This film began for me in graduate school while studying architecture at Rice University. It was in the depths of the 2008 real estate collapse that I began questioning what recovery really looked like.
In searching for a story, I was awarded a travel grant to photograph the abandoned McMansions that proliferated the mountainous desert landscape of Inland Empire, California. What I ultimately encountered was an environment far more perverse and disturbing than I had initially anticipated. Thousands of square miles, once replete with thriving orange groves, had burnt down to make way for a new commodity—conditioned square footage. But with access to cheap money no longer available, the charred remains of orange groves sat alongside these half-built McMansions. Commodities in limbo—their Tyvek wrap flapping in the wind. It was clear there was a larger story at play.
It’s been nearly ten years since the crisis began. And for many folks, the perception is that we’ve moved on. We’ve “recovered.” What this documentary project proposes, however, is that recovery is an illusion. We have not fixed the housing economy. And in fact, much of the underlying, endemic problems surrounding housing policy have only been compounded.
The election of Donald Trump and the uprisings in places like Baltimore are two sides of the same disgruntled coin: a housing policy wildly anachronistic for today’s time. It’s a housing market that disproportionately benefits an increasingly sheltered class of wealth, while keeping the rest of the population in a permanent state of economic anxiety.
Housing is everything. It dictates where we go to school, our probability to move up socio- economically. It defines who we interact with and how we raise our children. And we have done very little to change the system.
There has been no recovery. And the sooner we recognize this, the sooner we can hopefully have a real conversation about how we can build a new system. One that helps to rebuild a middle class decimated by globalization. One that extends government support to people of all races. And one that sees home as a right rather than as a commodity.
Here’s the trailer of Owned: A Tale of Two Americas.
To watch the full documentary click here.
Sun, 03/21/2021 – 20:10