The private housing rental market is now completely out of control. There are no fairness checks and balances that have any teeth. Fair housing laws are mostly anti-discrimination in nature and purposely do not address pricing controls. The rental market is very much the wild west of capitalist industries. Therefore we need a strong public housing option. Public housing need not be the high rise, high crime tenements of the past; they need not be projects but beautiful vibrant communities where residents become stakeholders and set down roots.
We begin by using beautiful modern construction techniques where the housing is designed and built by the people planning to live in the communities. People active in building the units that they will then live in will be well built and not necessarily shoddy construction. This helps engender neighborhood pride and encourage people to become stakeholders in the communities in which they live. We invite a diverse population to live in them by making it easy to qualify for any in book income below 100,000.00 for most locations and in cities more expensive, we raise the threshold to 150,000. Rent would be no more than 15% of one’s annual salary. This encourages people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to want to set down roots. Stable communities are safe communities are safe communities. Safe, stable communities encourage self-policing.
Unlike the housing projects of yesteryear that have failed, these will work because we will have learned some valuable lessons. When artificial barriers to entry get put in place and the communities are built to resemble psychiatric hospitals, it dooms the entire affair to failure from the very beginning. Just simply calling this a project is reducing the human beings that live there to an experiment. The communities should have nicely landscaped green areas with safe playgrounds and employ residents to maintain them. Residents not having skills would have the opportunity to learn a trade. The benefits would be enormous.
If we have a wide range of culturally and ethnically diverse people living in these communities, they become places not just to stay but to live. This is the crux of my argument. It is sad to see that, in some communities comprised of people of color, they talk about staying some place instead of living there. Instead they say, “I live everywhere.” This just shows how systemic the problem of discrimination is. But home is not just where somebody stays. Home is the essential psychological foundation of every human being. Home is where a person’s daily life begins and ends.
If given the opportunity to choose between living in an apartment on the private rental market and a vibrant public housing community, then I would handily choose the public option. Public housing works in so many other industrialized nations. The barriers to making it work in the United States are, as most barriers go, political. The real estate lobby and the landowner lobby do their level best to see that public housing never gets reconsidered. In fact, they went as far as to get it severely restricted via the HUD Faircloth Amendment.
If public housing is to succeed, it must be an option for not just the poor but anybody earning 100,000.00 – 150,000.00 or less depending on location. With a mix of people living there, the neighborhoods become safe and inviting. Furthermore, education levels will rise as home stability rises. When a family’s home life is stable, there is time for improving education and job training. The benefits to working class are so great. Maybe a partial ownership program could be established where the right to live in a unit could be willed to a next of kin. The possibilities are limited only by the lack of political will.