Is social housing a disease or a cure? Half a century spent pondering that question has left neoliberal governments around the world no closer to an answer.
One thing is clear, though. Home ownership as an ever-inflating retirement piggy bank continues to raise the price of free market housing, whether purchase or rental, beyond the means of large and increasing numbers of low- and no- income citizens.
A variety of social housing replacement schemes such as housing developer tax credits, mixed income projects, and rent supplement vouchers have attempted to address the problem. None have been as effective as purpose-built social housing itself, for all its too-gleefully celebrated warts.
Inadequate low and no-income housing is about to be further overwhelmed by homeless lower income wage workers laid off or dismissed from industries hard hit by COVID-19.
It is for this and a variety of other reasons that activists, academics and politicians in several countries are looking with more interest at the potential of traditional larger scale social housing projects, reimagined and implemented and managed differently and more effectively.
Within the context of that reimagining, there are benefits to looking at the strengths that earlier social housing projects have to offer. One obvious potential benefit comes from the interests shared by those in similar economic and social situations living together. This is a benefit not as immediately available or even suitable in a mixed income community of widely diverging incomes, nor to a scattering of rent-supplemented voucher-holders within a much broader community.
The following article is an example of a benefit that suits a community of similar interests. While it is an example of a response to the unique specifics of COVID-19, it demonstrates the potential of shared objectives and energy in a community of people with low-incomes.
Read more in at WAMU 88.5: How A Public Housing Learning Hub Is Helping D.C. Students Navigate Online Classes