Housing Discussion Forums – Opening Pandora’s Box?

An abstract idea of an illuminated house hands in midair, subject to interest and discussion of those who stand upon a platform below it
This scene was created by affordablehousingaction.org and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

If you are looking for ways to hold discussions about housing issues, you might want to check out the Housing Hangouts that are hosted by the University of North Carolina’s Center For Housing & Community Studies.

The Hangouts are hosted by Bruce Rich, the Director of the Center. The Center chooses a topic for each Hangout and invites experts to discuss the topic. The sessions start with Rich pitching questions to the guests, followed by a discussion that includes the audience.

Hangouts began as in-person sessions on campus and evolved to online events out of necessity in 2020. The online format allows the Center to invite speakers who live in other cities. As well, participants can join in from outside Greensboro, where the Center is located. The Hangouts have also been saved, so that anyone with access to Youtube can watch them after the fact.

The Hangouts are not pre-scripted, which leads them down unexpected paths. Here are some examples from the September session on Housing Choice Vouchers.

Rich started with questions about the limitations of vouchers1. He also asked the speakers for their thoughts about increasing funding to the Housing Choice Voucher program to make it universally accessible to everyone who is eligible. All of the speakers preferred a mixture of programs.

The audience comments and questions were another opportunity to head off in different directions. In this session, the comments reflected personal experience with using the voucher program:

    • A landlord who rents to voucher holders advocated for vouchers being conditional on tenants obtaining work.
    • A housing worker reflected that there were no vouchers in the area where he worked, but there seemed to be plenty available in other communities. He wondered whether the vouchers were being distributed according to need.

The Housing Hangouts are interesting both for their subject matter and for their format. They would be of interest to people who are looking for ways to facilitate discussions about housing issues. You can check the following web page for recordings of all previous sessions and the one next up in the schedule: Housing Hangouts


  1. Examples include the administrative requirement that the home clears a HUD inspection, the years-long waits to obtain a voucher, as well as voucher holders being unable to find a landlord who is willing to accept the voucher.