Save Affordable Housing From the Free Market? Houston Had A Vision. It’s Blurring

view of bungalow in Houston from the street
A community land trust like the one in Houston can be a perfect way of integrating lower income housing and tenants into a neighbourhood. No 'public housing' stigma visible here. Does this house belong to the land trust? Maybe. But then, maybe not.

The problem is obvious. The tentacles of profit-earning capitalism are enmeshed in the buying and selling of homes. These days, everyone wants to buy and sell housing. That includes every speculator for whom housing is a poker chip in life’s great casino. It also includes every mom and/or pop who spends a lifetime and hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to ‘helpful’ mortgage providers in hopes of creating the housing asset that  continually appreciates and guarantees future security for themselves and their families.

Left out of this fever-dream of gambling with the human right to housing are those too poor to afford to buy housing, and increasingly too poor even to rent housing.

Houston, Texas had a solution for these poor folks. It’s a method of protecting housing from free market speculation. It has been tested here and there on a small scale and has proven to work. That successful shield against the free market? Community land trusts!

Big dreams from a big city in a big state: Houston announced it was going to generate sustainable affordable housing protected from free market gambling — not just a few units here and there, but on a grand scale. Both the City and the Houston Community Land Trust earned plaudits from all over America for its boldness1.

Now those dreams are in tatters. Houston has achieved only a fraction of its ambitions and is retreating from its commitment. What went wrong? Read an analysis at Houston Public Media: Houston wanted to lead the nation in long-term affordable housing. Now it’s backpedaling.


  1. Try: Climate Change And The Pandemic Drive Interest In Land Trusts and Co-operatives