Turn Menace Into Myth: How To Bigfoot An Affordable Housing Crisis

derelict building
Crisis photo by Vincent van der Pas is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Is there an affordable housing crisis? Some think not.

How Can We Solve A Housing Crisis That Doesn’t Exist? That’s the headline of a recent Mother Jones article.

Indeed! Why not abominalize the affordable housing crisis — send it off into the trackless mountains of Tibet to play with other abominable snow creatures. Relegate it to a myth, out of sight, out of mind.

But how?

Well, we could use Lies, or Damned Lies, or, best of all Statistics. Statistics are what the Mother Jones article used. Cherry pick statistics based on overall housing supply and demand in America. Show by statistic after statistic that generally, the imbalance of housing demand has not changed much for years. Focus on the average American.

Note to ourselves as we go: we are cleverly defining a housing crisis on the fly by looking for a crisis that generally applies to the average American. And guess what? We can’t find one! The affordable housing crisis that torments the average American has become an imaginary bigfoot, a harmless bogeyman which exists only to haunt the rainforest mists of our fevered imagination.

Using the same logic, we can cause the severe weather crises of 2018 to vanish. A couple of destructive hurricanes and west coast wildfires did not generally apply to the average American. Those events were restricted to only some Americans who carelessly chose to place themselves in the path of inclement weather. According to the Mother Jones article, a crisis only exists if it somehow applies to an entire population, not segments of it.

You can follow this entire train of thought at Mother Jones: How Can We Solve A Housing Crisis That Doesn’t Exist?

And, if you’re not a fan of liberal, progressive articles such as those frequently found in Mother Jones, we have a more conservative treat for you.

The Mother Jones content has been picked up as an article in Forbes, titled Washington Can’t Solve A Housing Crisis That Doesn’t Exist. It makes a national housing crisis disappear while absolving the government from doing a fig about it, all in one headline. Clever!

As it turns out, the Forbes version tends to hash over the same old Mother Jones statistics. There’s an underlying message of ‘don’t forget me, I’ve been saying this for ages’ in the article, but one single important perspective has been added.

The author of the Forbes article is proud of how he ambushes conference-goers and the like, asking them about the ‘housing crisis.’ What is it? When did it start? When does it end? His thinking on this matter is spelled out quite clearly. If a crisis is not properly defined, it doesn’t exist.

Wow! This is indeed a spectacular model of how to push an imaginary bogeymen back under the bed where it belongs.

Let’s do just that to ‘war’, shall we? Nobody has a clue what ‘war’ means any longer. Can it apply to drugs? Is the nation at war if it only supplies the bombs but doesn’t drop them? ‘War’ is no longer clearly defined, so by simple logic, it no longer exists and government need do nothing about it.

It’s doubtful that this line of thinking is going to cheer the beleaguered population of Yemen, as well those living through other conflicts around the globe. But you can ignore wars if you like, and indulge in a housing-only crisis perspective at Forbes: Washington Can’t Solve A Housing Crisis That Doesn’t Exist

At affordablehousingaction.org we consider the viewpoints of both authors to be self-indulgent rhetorical silliness, but we do note that it is lazy for anyone, including ourselves, to roll up dozens of small local housing crises and present them in some kind of national bundle as THE HOUSING crisis, or on a broader scale still, THE GLOBAL HOUSING crisis.

There are indeed similarities which might forgive such bundling (but which conveniently allow them to be banished in a puff of inane logic). On the other hand there are also differences to suggest that housing crises (like weather crises, and violent conflict crises such as wars) should be examined and treated on whatever scale — national, regional or local — that affords the best understanding of how to solve them.


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