This morning I am finding myself thinking a good deal about guaranteed housing and its very real and tangible benefits. I believe that not only is it very real and possible but that it might actually be the fiscally responsible policy to enact. Guaranteed housing need not be in conflict with the existing system of capital-based housing; systems can coexist without hurting each other. I believe housing should be a guaranteed right of citizenship but this article looks beyond this as an ideal and actually shows how it can be beneficial. Housing for all will bring a multitude of benefits and cost savings to society.
If we are to operate on the basic premise that home is the foundation of psychological stability and mental health, then this is the premise that we start from when advocating for a guaranteed housing policy. A stable healthy home allows people a place to retreat and recharge from the world. A home becomes somebody’s personal refuge and sanctuary, therefore it may actually contribute to positive mental health. Homelessness and housing crises foment mental health crises because when housing is a constant stressor, the human mind cannot recharge, relax, and destress. Therefore this places a burden on mental health services both public and private. Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted, continuously emphasizes that on the hierarchy of needs, housing is perhaps at the top, being the foundation for stablity.
Guaranteed housing also can coexist without competing directly with the private housing market as there will always be a large contingent of people that will want (and be able to afford) more private accommodations. Those families earning more money will be able to easily seek homeownership or a more upscale rental. Guaranteed housing does not prevent those seeking to earn money from investment properties from doing so nor will it prevent wealthier families from living where they want. Furthermore, a guarantee of housing does not mean private ownership of the unit, rather the unit is owned by the federal government and tenancy cannot be willed or transferred to another person or family. This author would gladly live in a community where housing is guaranteed.
A policy that provides a housing unit for all who want one will mean a significant reduction in the costs and redundancies of existing systems. Currently, there are city and state housing authorities as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development. What if cities and states were free to disband their housing authorities in favor of one single federal system. Imagine the cost savings and drastic reduction in the amount of personnel needed to service a system. Furthermore, the number of redundant administrative personnel at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could be reduced in favor of employing people to actually maintain, build, design, and operate the housing units. What if it were no longer necessary to have separate police departments specifically for housing authorities. The savings cascade and we house more people much less expensively.
Since the only qualifications necessary for people wanting housing would be being a United States citizen, the diversity of people occupying the housing will increase. Instead of being simply the lowest rungs on the socioeconomic ladder, there will be people from truly all walks of life living side by side making neighborhoods safer, discouraging crime, and encouraging neighborhood stake. People living in a neighborhood largely without transient families is stable and needs less policing because neighbors become stakeholders. Freed from the encumbrances of worry about homelessness, families can seek further education opportunities and people can seek self-improvement. Mental health crises become less serious and far more manageable. More income is left over at the end of the month for food which reduces the inefficiencies of the supplemental nutrition assistance program which is horribly expensive and ridiculously inefficient.
The time to advocate for a guaranteed housing program is now. It will put a lot of people back to work building, maintaining, designing and operating beautiful communities that are nothing like the projects of yesteryear. These communities could be beautiful and inspirational and encourage participation by everyone. Instead of looking like cinderblock, improved jail cells these will be vibrant beautiful homes where people will be free to live in them, seek sanctuary, have money left over to save or invest in themselves. The benefits are so many that I often wonder what is holding us back from doing so. We are being held back by our politicians that are so one track minded about evil socialism that they willingly gloss over the awful, inefficient bureaucracies that we have now just so we will not be a fair nation.