A Public Housing Policy

The cost of housing on the private rental marketing is exploding to the point where people are unable to afford the rent on one job. There is nothing normal, sustainable, or even good about this situation and I am surprised more alarm bells are not rining. If it is taking working two jobs just to make ends meet, then that means people are unable to save money for retirement and my generation is in dire straits as we age and face needed care. Thus far only two politicians have been willing to advocate for a public housing policy: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. We need a return to a strong public housing policy and to provide public housing to those who want it. It no longer matters how we got to the point where we are at; the problem just needs to be fixed.

Public housing need not be the large projects in the style of Cabrini Green in Chicago. The first mistake was treating public housing as a project and relegating it to the worst areas of a city. There is no good reason that we cannot build vibrant, sustainable, and safe housing that is not a project. These need to be communities and open to those whom want to live there and this means that the socio-economic demographics will be diverse. Furthermore, we build these communities with the labor that intends to live in the apartments and this makes people stakeholders in their communities. Stakeholders keep their neighborhoods safe because they care.

Public housing can be architecturally beauitful because the housing community designs can be created by the people intending to live there. Give the residents input instead of contracting it out to some faceless company and you have a community that does not resemble the mental hospitals of yesteryear. If we operate on the premise that the home is the source of mental, emotional, financial, and personal stability, then public housing provides all of these. Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted, notes that these key aspects could actually go a long way to reducing crime in a way that added policing and incarceration never will. Stable neighborhoods are safe neighborhoods. Make a neighborhood stable by keeping it very affordable and allowing people to set long term roots. In neighborhoods that are transient, in essence, nobody cares beyond their own existence. Neighborhoods that are unstable encourage crime and destitution.

The major impediments to a renewed public housing policy are organizations like The National Association of Realtors, The National fair Housing Association, and The Association of Independent Landlords. These three organizations are dedicated to promoting the needs of the landlord and public housing seeks to stop the current gravy train. Even The National Fair Housing Association is designed to distract the public from the real problem of housing affordability. Fair housing is a dog whistle for status quo. These three organizations can all be summed up in one heavily sarcastic phrase, But my freedom! But my profits! Public housing becomes the checks and balances on a system that has become so out of balance in favor of the wealthy landlord.

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