Multiple USA Crises: Could A New Public Housing Dawn Fix Them?

an orange/yellow dawn breaks over high rises of a public housing project
Composite image by Alan Ritchie is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/ Sunrise photo by Holger is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/ Alfred E. Smith Houses from Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan, New York photo by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In the midst of a pandemic, Joe Biden has stepped to the plate. Could one powerful swing towards public housing renewal knock a series of national problems out of the park?

That’s the position taken in a recent report by The Justice Collaborative Institute (JCI). It’s a rare sighting of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker of the affordable housing world: social housing — commonly believed to be either extinct, or heading for extinction, in all corners of the United States.

The JCI report mirrors public re-evaluation of the potential value of affordable housing that has been occurring in other free market economies. For example, during the pandemic, Australian activists and academics have stood out by actively questioning the influence of Thatcherite1 small ideas that require private enterprise collaboration in any program delivering subsidized housing to low and no income citizens.2. Australian thinking has extended beyond the intrinsic value of social housing to low- and no- income housing to propose its contributions to economic recovery from the pandemic.

While the JCL report is a breath of fresh air, government resistance towards hands-on delivery of public housing has remained strong in America, where both Democrat and Republican governments have merely tinkered with Thatcherite policies for several decades.

Biden would seem to be leaning towards a governance team with a preponderance of highly skilled Obama-era bureaucrats and policy-makers. There is as yet not a great deal of encouragement to be found that there will be great change in the small-c conservative visions that have carried over from the end of the the last century. This long-term political pull is largely shared by both Republicans AND Democrats.

As a result, more progressive arguments in favour of public housing may well be condemned yet again by the political centre as unacceptably radical, based invariably on faulty evaluations of public housing as the sum of its failures, rather than the sum of its successes.

Read more in Bloomberg CityLab: Should Biden Go Big on Public Housing?

. . . and the above-mentioned report on potential benefits of building public housing by The Justice Collaborative Institute: The Case for Social Housing

Footnotes

  1. Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990. Her political philosophy favoured small government and widespread privatisation of government activities, including transportation and housing. Her approach earned worldwide admiration, and her influence is still strongly felt today, particularly in the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, and former commonwealth nations such as Canada, Australian and New Zealand.
  2. Try: Canary’s Song: Australia Needs Social Housing, Other Big Construction Projects

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