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In both its historical Progressive Era roots and its contemporary manifestations, U.S. urban progressivism has evinced a contradictory tendency toward promoting the interests of capital and property while ostensibly protecting labor and tenants, thus producing policies that undermine its central claims. This article interrogates past and present appeals to urban progressive politics, particularly around housing and planning, and offers an in-depth case study of one of the most highly touted examples of the new urban progressivism: New York City’s recently adopted Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program. This case serves to identify the ways in which progressive rhetoric can disguise neoliberal policies. The article concludes with a discussion of legally viable housing policy alternatives that would challenge inequalities without producing gentrification. Given neoprogressivism’s ideological slipperiness, it is crucial for analysts, policymakers, and social movement actors to look beyond rhetorical claims to “progressive” politics and ask the questions: progress for whom, toward what?


This work was originally published in Journal of Urban Affairs, available at



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