America is where social housing went to die. Poisoned by the cold war that tarnished all things that remotely hinted of socialism or communism, social housing’s slow death was, and still is, blamed on its penniless inhabitants.
This poor underclass of Americans has been physically and socially unable to cope with the reckless abandonment of the governments — local, regional and national — that created social housing. The least able of all Americans largely been made to take the fall for bad government planning, bad design, bad construction, bad management, bad funding and bad political will.
The ‘social’ — aka ‘public’ — housing that survives in America is by and large on life support, usually kept alive only because of grudging admission that it fills a need and has so far not been replaced by any worthwhile substitute.
In the United Kingdom, public housing over the last few decades has dipped in a similar, though shallower, downwards trajectory. Local councils have sold off great chunks of social housing, demolished socially toxic tower blocks and waited patiently for free enterprise to demonstrate that it can do a better job of housing the lowest classes of UK citizens. Patience with profit-obsessed private partners is wearing thin, and being replaced by a recognition that local governments didn’t do such a bad job of housing UK citizens after all.
If local authorities once successfully built large quantities of needed housing, it’s reasonable to assume that they could do so again. But what about the housing projects that still exist with their warts, both real and imagined? Can they be brought back from the dead?
From Scotland comes encouraging evidence that social housing can indeed be successfully reborn. Read more about one such Scottish estate in THE SCOTSMAN: Insight: Why Scotland Must Invest More In Social Housing