Justin Steil

Associate Professor of Law and Urban Planning

Justin Steil (CV) is an Associate Professor of Law and Urban Planning. His research analyzes how power and inequality are created and contested through control over access to particular places.  As a lawyer and urban planner, his scholarship disentangles how the structure of local governance and land use law interacts with housing policies to shape the spatial structure of our social world in ways that produce economic and racial inequality.  He also analyzes how civil rights laws and planning, zoning, and housing policies can be redesigned to increase equality of access to resources and advance racial justice.  Recent scholarship has focused on the relationship between space, power, and inequality in three main areas: 1) environmental justice, especially the intersection of housing and climate change related disasters; 2) affordable housing and housing discrimination; and 3) local governance and land use regulation.

He is the co-editor of three books: Furthering Fair Housing: Prospects for Racial Justice in America’s Neighborhoods (2021); The Dream Revisited: Contemporary Debates about Housing, Segregation, and Opportunity (2019); and Searching for the Just City: Debates in Urban Theory and Practice (2009). 

On the intersection of housing policy and environmental justice, recent work has focused on the flooding disasters and the experiences of renters with low-incomes, including “A Perfect Storm? Disasters and Evictions” (2022) in Housing Policy Debate; “In Harm's Way? The Effect of Disasters on the Magnitude and Location of Low‐Income Housing Tax Credit Allocations” (2022) in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management;  and “Affordable Housing, Disasters, and Social Equity: LIHTC as a Tool for Preparedness and Recovery” in the Journal of the American Planning Association (2020).

On affordable housing and housing stability, recent scholarship has focused on gentrification and eviction, including: “Eviction Dynamics in Market-rate Multifamily Rental Housing” in Housing Policy Debate (2021); and “Mapping Gentrification and Displacement Pressure: An Exploration of Four Distinct Methodologies” in Urban Studies (2020). 

On housing discrimination and responses to it, recent research includes “The Social Structure of Mortgage Discrimination,” in Housing Studies (2018); “Antisubordination Planning” in the Journal of Planning Education and Research (2018); “Limits of Diversity: Jane Jacobs, the Just City, and Anti-Subordination” in Cities (2019); and “The Sociology of Segregation and Fair Housing” (2020) published in Perspectives on Fair Housing.  Other related scholarship on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule includes “The Fairest of Them All:  Analyzing Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Compliance” (2019) and “Survival of the Fairest:  Examining HUD Reviews of Assessments of Fair Housing” (2019), both in Housing Policy Debate.

On local governance and land use regulation, recent work has examined planning and metropolitan inequality in comparative perspective, including: “Varieties of Urbanism: A Comparative View of Inequality and the Dual Dimensions of Metropolitan Fragmentation” in Politics & Society (2020); and “Local power and the location of subsidized renters in comparative perspective: public support for low-and moderate-income households in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom” (2021) in Housing Studies.

Prior scholarship on immigration federalism includes  “The New Immigration Contestation: Social Movements and Local Immigration Policymaking in the United States, 2000-2011,” in the American Journal of Sociology (2014) and “Small Town Defenders: The Production of Citizenship in Hazelton, Pennsylvania” (2012) in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.  

Justin also co-authored an Amicus Brief on behalf of housing scholars to the United States Supreme Court in Bank of America et al. v. City of Miami and is a frequent expert witness in federal civil rights litigation.  Justin’s research has been cited in federal court opinions and other briefs to the Supreme Court. With his students, Justin has also created an online library of primary sources and research regarding the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.

Before coming to MIT, Justin was a Fellow at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University Law School. Prior to NYU, he clerked for the Hon. M. Margaret McKeown, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the Hon. Kimba M. Wood, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Before graduate school, he worked as advocacy director for a non-profit fighting predatory lending practices, urban planner for an environmental justice organization focusing on brownfield redevelopment, program manager for a project bringing youth and prisoners into critical dialogues about justice, and trainer with a domestic violence crisis center instructing police in Ciudad Juárez in the support of survivors of sexual assault.

Justin received a B.A. from Harvard College in African-American Studies, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics in City Design and Social Science, a J.D. from Columbia Law School, and a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.  For most of the past two decades, he has volunteered teaching in jails or prisons, and he has co-founded volunteer teaching programs at Boston’s Suffolk County House of Correction; New York City’s Riker’s Island Correctional Facility; and the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. 

Justin serves on the Board of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council and was formerly a member of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank's Community Development Research Advisory Council. He is an affiliate of MIT’s Women’s and Gender Studies program, Sociology at MIT, and MIT’s Legal Studies Concentration.  Justin is also a member of the Steering Group of the Inter-University Consortium on Migration and a member of the faculty council of the MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab). Justin is a researcher in residence for Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and an Emergency Medical Technician for MIT EMS

The department’s students awarded Justin the Departmental Teaching Award in 2016 and the Office of Graduate Education awarded him the Committed to Caring Award in 2018 for “professors who go above and beyond expectations to make a positive impact on the lives of graduate students.”  MIT in 2018 awarded Justin the Paul Gray Award for Public Service, recognizing “a member of the MIT faculty who exemplifies building a better world” through his or her teaching, research, advising, and service.”  In 2021, the Graduate Student Council awarded Justin the Frank E. Perkins Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising and MIT awarded the Harold E. Edgerton Award for exceptional contributions in research, teaching, and service.