I research the history of cities, urban planning, and housing policy. I’m particularly interested in questions of housing affordability, racial and income segregation, and gentrification. I like comparing urban phenomenon around the world, and I’ve written about cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Singapore, London, Seoul, and Manila.


A World of Homeowners

looks at the history of US foreign aid specifically for mass housing projects around the world. I argue that the US tried to build anti-communist regimes through mass homeownership campaigns based on a US model of debt-driven, single-family, owner-occupied housing. Results were mixed, with some countries rejecting this model, others modifying it beyond recognition, and still others attempting a faithful replica. The most important lesson of this history? Even in “successful” cases, mass housing invariably required a great deal of government investment and management.

Winner of the 2015 Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in North American Urban History.
Winner of the 2016 The Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Making Cities Global

is a co-edited volume with Andrew-Sandoval-Strausz. In this collection, Andrew and I begin with an introduction that lays out the core contributions of a global approach to urban history. I also have a single-authored chapter on the history of danger areas in Manila. In it, I argue the Philippine government used the designation of “danger areas” to remove families from prime central-city real estate. The government’s caretaker rhetoric was only distantly related to the primary motives behind mass relocation; protection from environmental threat was hardly a politically neutral project.

In addition, I have the following publications:


1.     “Anti-gentrification campaigns and the fight for local control in California cities,” Ian Klaus and Michele Acuto, eds., special edition on “The De-globalizing city?” for New Global Studies, Volume 12, Issue 1 (Apr 2018) pp. 9-20.

2.      “Method and Interdisciplinarity of Planning History,” in Carola Hein, ed., Handbook of Planning History (Routledge 2017). {PEER REVIEWED}

3.      “International Organizations and the Logic of Self-Help,” in Farhan Karim and Farhana Ferdous, eds., Routledge Companion to Architecture & Social Engagement (Routledge 2017). {PR}

4.      “This striking feature of Manila makes it an emblematic global city,” Aeon, September, 2017, <https://aeon.co/ideas/this-striking-feature-of-manila-makes-it-an-emblematic-global-city>.

5.      “Understanding urban from the disciplinary viewpoint of history,” in Deljana Iossifova, Alexandros Gasparatos and Christopher Doll, eds., Defining the Urban: Perspectives Across the Academic Disciplines and Professional Fields (Routledge, 2017). {PR}

6.      “Transnational Planning History,” Planning Perspectives VSI, October 2015. http://explore.tandfonline.com/page/pgas/planning-perspectives-virtual-special-issue

7.      “Manila’s ‘Danger Areas’,” in Places Journal, February 2015, https://placesjournal.org/article/manilas-danger-areas/. {PR}

8.      “Myth: Public Housing is Only for Poor People,” in Nicholas Bloom and Lawrence Vale, eds., Public Housing Myths: Beyond Victims and Villains (Cornell UP, 2015). {PR}

9.      “Charles Abrams,” in Nicholas Bloom and Matthew Lasner, eds., Affordable Housing in New York City: Triumph, Challenge, and Opportunity (Princeton UP, 2015). {PR}

10.   “American public housing – hardly a domestic affair,” in Joseph Heathcott, ed., Journal of the American Planning Association - Special Issue on American Public Housing at 75: Policy, Planning, and the Public Good, Vol. 78, Issue 4 (2012). {PR}

11.   “The politics of Singapore’s fire narrative,” in Greg Bankoff, Uwe Luebken, and Jordan Sand, eds., Flammable Cities: Urban Conflagration and the Making of the Modern World (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011). {PR}

12.   “International influences on the creation of a national landscape in Singapore 1945-2000,” in Shane Ewen and Pierre-Yves Saunier, eds., The Other Global City: Transnational Connections and Urban Problems in the Modern Age (London: Palgrave, 2008). {PR}

13.  “New scholarship in the field of international and transnational urban history,” solicited survey and review article for Urban History, Cambridge University Press, August 2008.

14.   “New Perspectives on Public Housing Histories in the Americas,” co-author with Sean Purdy (University of Brasilia) and co-editor of entire special edition. Journal of Urban History: Special publication on public housing in the Americas, Vol. 33, No. 4 (2007): 357-374. {PR}


1.     Review of Ocean Howell, Making the Mission: Planning and Ethnicity in San Francisco (Chicago, 2015) for The American Historical Review, Volume 122, Issue 5, 1 December 2017, pp. 1623–1624.

2.     Commentary and review on Marc Norman, “Designing Affordability: New Housing Ecosystems,” Harvard Journal of Real Estate (2015).

3.     Review of Robert B. Fairbanks, The War on Slums in the Southwest (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014) for The Journal of American History (2015).

4.     Review of Abigail Perkiss, Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia (Cornell University Press, 2014) for Planning Perspectives (2014).

5.     Review of Zaire Dinzey-Flores, Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Cities in a Puerto Rican City (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013) for Planning Perspectives (2014).

6.     Review of Richard Ronald and Marja Elsinga, eds., Beyond Homeownership: Housing, Welfare, and Society (New York: Routledge, 2012) for Journal of Urban Affairs (2014).

7.     Review of Carl Nightingale, Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012) for Buildings & Landscapes (2014).

8.     Encyclopedia entry: “Condom” entry in Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier, eds., The Dictionary of Transnational History (London: Palgrave, 2008).

9.     Review of Seth Koven, Slumming: Sexual and social politics in Victorian London (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004) for The London Journal 30(1): 2005.

10.  Review of Milton Klein, ed., The Empire State: A History of New York (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004) for New York History Net, 2004. http://www.nyhistory.com/reviews/Empire_State_Kwak.htm.

11.  Encyclopedia entries: “Fannie Mae,” “Urban Renewal,” and “Housing” entries in David Goldfield, ed., Encyclopedia of American Urban History (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006).

12.  Encyclopedia entry: “History of Immigrant Housing” in James Ciment, ed., Encyclopedia of American Immigration. (Armonk: NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001) 587-590.


I am now working on two separate studies - one, on urban informality around the world, and the other, on housing affordability in the US.