Conor Dougherty

Golden Gates

Spacious and affordable homes used to be the hallmark of American prosperity. Today, however, punishing rents and the increasingly prohibitive cost of ownership have turned housing into the foremost symbol of inequality and an economy gone wrong. Nowhere is this more visible than in the San Francisco Bay Area, where fleets of private buses ferry software engineers past the tarp-and-plywood shanties where the homeless make their homes. The adage that California is a glimpse of the nation’s future has become a cautionary tale.

With propulsive storytelling and ground-level reporting, New York Times journalist Conor Dougherty chronicles America’s housing crisis from its West Coast epicenter, peeling back the decades of history and economic forces that brought us here and taking readers inside the activist uprisings that have risen in tandem with housing costs. 

To tell this new story of housing, Dougherty follows a struggling math teacher who builds a political movement dedicated to ending single-family-house neighborhoods. A teenaged girl who leads her apartment complex against their rent-raising landlord. A nun who tries to outmaneuver private equity investors by amassing a multimillion-dollar portfolio of affordable homes. A suburban bureaucrat who roguishly embraces density in response to the threat of climate change. A developer who manufactures homeless housing on an assembly line.

Sweeping in scope and intimate in detail, Golden Gates captures a vast political realignment during a moment of rapid technological and social change.

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“Incisive, character-driven debut…Dougherty expertly weaves these individual stories into his overarching assessment of urban policy… Readers who assume there’s no solution to sky-high rents in America’s big cities should consult this detailed and optimistic counter-narrative.” — Publishers Weekly

“Perhaps no other phenomenon drives income inequality as starkly as housing…While Dougherty provides plenty of macro-level research about housing across the nation—and especially in San Francisco—the major strength of the narrative occurs at the micro level  . . . A readable, eye-opening exploration.” — Kirkus  

“Economics reporter Dougherty’s first book identifies housing as a profound American social and economic challenge which also influences other problems, from educational gaps and racial disparity to climate change…well-reported and well-documented, not to mention fascinating, treatment of a topic that Dougherty convincingly argues is critical to equity and stability in America…Recommended for renters, owners, developers, and policymakers alike.” — Library Journal