Alexander von Hoffman

Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design

Alexander von Hoffman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Joint Center and Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.   A historian by training, he is the author of House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban Neighborhoods (2003), which chronicled the rise of the community development movement in New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles; Fuel Lines for the Urban Revival Engine: Neighborhoods, Community Development Corporations, and Financial Intermediaries (Fannie Mae Foundation, 2001), which examined the relationship between funding organizations and community development corporations; and Local Attachments: The Making of an American Urban Neighborhood, 1850 to 1920 (1994), which traced the physical (including real estate and park development), social, economic, and political history of the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.  He is currently working on a book on the history of low-income housing in the United States.

Von Hoffman has published many scholarly articles on urban history and social policy, including most recently “Calling Upon the Genius of Private Enterprise: The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 and the Liberal Turn to Public-Private Partnerships” in Studies in American Political Development 27 (October 2013) and “The Past, Present, and Future of Community Development in the United States” in Nancy O. Andrews and David J. Erickson, eds., Investing in What Works for America’s Communities (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 2012).  He has also written essays on housing and urban development for general-interest periodicals, including the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe.

While at the Joint Center, von Hoffman has written numerous working papers and case studies on housing policy and practice.  He is currently conducting a major research project, supported by the MacArthur Foundation, on the issue of preservation of affordable housing in the United States, which includes a monograph history of the issue and five case studies of preservation of affordable housing projects in different regions and types of locales.  He recently completed three histories of the evolution of land use regulations affecting residential development in three Boston metropolitan area towns, Arlington, Acton, and Weston.  Prior to that, he directed a three-year project in collaboration with the U. S. Geological Survey entitled “Patterns and Process of Sprawl,” which explored metropolitan development between 1970 and 2000.

Prior to coming to the Joint Center, Dr. von Hoffman was an Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Fellow at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government of the Harvard Kennedy School. He received a BA in English and an MA in History from the University of Massachusetts Boston, an MA in History from Harvard University, and a Ph. D. from the Department of History at Harvard.