Post-Growth as a Process? Building Housing Movements toward Diverse Housing Planning: Lessons from Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA.


  • Antonio Raciti UMass Boston


Housing planning, Post-Growth Planning, Community Engagement




In contexts such as the US, where growth-led planning is guiding spatial development, envisioning post-growth planning patterns is difficult. Such a challenging task is even more difficult within the realm of housing planning, where planning tools (i.e., zoning, incentives, etc.) have often been used as a fiscal device to increase cities’ revenue. In similar contexts, a post-growth horizon of work is often unimaginable even by individuals and groups opposing pro-growth futures. Thus, it should be generated ex-novo if diverse planning is desired. Drawing from the author’s engaged work in Massachusetts communities, this paper asks: what housing movements are needed to advance post-growth housing planning? The paper answers this question by using in-depth interviews, community engagement activities, and engaged learning pedagogy experiments designed as part of an ongoing research process focused on how institutions, civic organizations, social groups, and individuals face the housing crisis of major metropolitan areas and enact on their values and believes in fostering other-than-growth paradigm for housing futures.

Several reasons point to the need for planning research to focus on shaping new housing movements. First, post-growth housing planning has proposed models of commoning as potential solutions in search of alternatives beyond the idea of housing as a device for capital accumulation (Savini & Bossuyt, 2022). However, solutions developed along these lines constitute post-growth housing manifestos whose implementation rarely happens in contexts dominated by pro-growth cultures. Second, in such contexts, the housing question is still centered around supply-and-demand mechanisms, which determine YIMBY and NIMBY groups, either favoring or fighting housing development (Teresa, 2022). When this binary drives public opinion, however, it weakens possibilities offered by planning research to collectively work with existing housing movements to advance diverse housing planning.

The paper critically analyzes the proposed implementation of MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) communities in the State of Massachusetts by examining the City of Gloucester (MA, USA) case. While facing State-led pro-growth housing planning, like the other 176 municipalities in the Metro Boston Area, the Gloucester community has been split in reactions. On the one side, public institutions and non-profit organizations cluster together to push for a pro-growth agenda favoring the construction of MBTA communities as the only solution to address the housing crisis; on the other side, non-organized residents strongly oppose such a pro-growth agenda and advance various ideas on what, why, and how different housing options should be pursued.

The paper shows how the existence of a non-profit industrial complex (Gilmore, 2017) counters possible post-growth agendas in search of alternatives to neoliberal housing policies. Instead, the paper suggests to nuance NYMBY movements’ positions through direct citizen engagement as a starting point of engaged research processes able to offer conducive perspectives for post-growth. The paper contributes to the current debate on how social movements might foster post-growth and decommodification of housing discourse (Lima, 2021) and how post-growth processes need to be built while operating in highly conflicting settings whose actors do not necessarily cluster around a post-growth coherent housing agenda as shown in some European cases (Schneider, 2018).


Gilmore, R. W. (2017). In the Shadow of the Shadow State. In The Revolution will not be Funded (pp. 41–52). Duke University Press.

Lima, V. (2021). Urban austerity and activism: direct action against neoliberal housing policies. Housing Studies, 36(2).

Savini, F., & Bossuyt, D. (2022). Housing commons as a degrowth planning practice. In Housing commons as a degrowth planning practice (pp. 35–48).

Schneider, F. (2018). Housing for degrowth narratives. In Housing for Degrowth: Principles, Models, Challenges and Opportunities.

Teresa, B. F. (2022). Planners’ Alchemy Achieved? How NIMBY and YIMBY Reproduce the Housing Question. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 46(2).