Graduate Student Reflection: Allison Reed

The Pozen Family Center for Human Rights supports doctoral student research that makes a significant contribution to the study and field of human rights. The grants may be used during a fifteen month period and awardees are asked to submit a report or reflection upon completion.

By Allison Reed, Sociology
2018 Pozen Research Grant for PhD Students Awardee

Housing is a basic human right—perhaps the most basic human right, as pursuing things like education, work, and health all depend upon one having safe, adequate shelter as a base. The issue of housing has defined many aspects of both my academic and professional work, starting with my undergraduate research. The work I did for this Pozen-funded project focused on a social innovation in housing, called the Community Land Trust model.

In the CLT model, a nonprofit sells homes to low- and moderate-income individuals while retaining ownership of the land beneath those homes. They lease the land to the homebuyer, with the stipulation that should the buyer sell the home, they sell to another lower-income person. In addition to providing access to housing for lower-income households and preserving that housing affordability permanently, CLT nonprofits also incorporate stewardship activities such as homebuyer education and foreclosure prevention into their work. Such activities, along with the overall structure of CLTs, have enabled CLT homebuyers to go into foreclosure eight times less often than mainstream mortgage holders.

"While CLTs are part of greater political objectives, such political objectives require living, breathing political subjects to make them a reality."

Despite these benefits associated with CLTs, it is still not widely known about or used. My PhD research has explored this puzzle of underutilization despite evidence for the model’s benefits. Some of the questions that interest both me and these entrenched housing rights advocates include: What do community land trust organizations have to do to scale up? And how do potential community land trust homebuyers make decisions about whether or not the model makes sense for them?

My funding from Pozen allowed me access to the resources needed to more fully understand the social and theoretical contexts of which CLTs are a part. I was able to analyze data that I had not previously processed, and access secondary sources crucial for my analysis. Using the software and other tools I financed with my Pozen funding, I learned more about why some housing providers adopt the CLT model and some don’t. This information can be used to understand what makes social housing more or less attractive to producers of housing, and may provide both practical and theoretical insights into the patterns of diffusion that social innovations take on.

Studying the community land trust as part of a social movement for social housing in the United States opened me up to the study of social movements more generally. Now, in addition to an interest in housing, my work is considering things such as disability, health, and activism. While CLTs are part of greater political objectives, such political objectives require living, breathing political subjects to make them a reality. Thus, my next round of work will investigate how political subjectivities form—not just intellectually or as part of an identity, but on levels of embodiment, psychology, and ways of being in the world.

Allison Reed is a PhD student in Sociology. Her research focuses on both the objects and subjects of social change, including the social objective of expanding affordable housing.