The popularity of HGTV house-flipping TV shows can’t be overstated: In the second week of July, HGTV was the fourth highest rated cable network, behind only Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, making it the highest rated entertainment network in the United States. Its most prominent programming: the reliable, risk free formula of home flipping shows. All of these shows—Flip or Flop and its many regional spinoffs, Good Bones, Flipping 101, to name just a few—share a basic formula: house-flippers, usually a family business in the form of a husband and wife team or parent and child with a folksy rapport, buy a neglected house on the cheap—cue zoom-ins on mold, water damage, decaying wood, dust and dead bugs—that’s often in a relatively poor or gentrifying neighborhood.
They then turn it into something they describe as "beautiful", to be sold at a much higher price to, most likely, young white people looking for a "funky" home in an "up-and-coming" neighborhood. But at what cost do these glossy, get-rich-quick reality shows entertain us? What ideologies do they promote, and how do they erase the working class black and brown families whose housing was condemned, and communities were systemically neglected, before the camera’s even began rolling?
On this episode—our Season 3 finale—we take a look at these shows to understand how and why HGTV became a glorified commercial for house-flipping and gentrification, examining its indifference to housing instability and its dead-eyed cheerleading of “middle-class” bourgeois aspirationalism, no matter the social cost.
Our guests are culture writer Ann-Derrick Gaillot and Atlanta-based community organizer Kamau Franklin.