The Decline And Fall Of Public Housing, Or . . . Back To Tent Camps & Slums

Tin-roofed shacks line a half street, half sewer
Slum photo by krosinsky is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
How soon we forget! Even today's richest nations have needed government money to eliminate substandard housing for their poorest citizens.

Is the villain called ‘small-government conservatism’ or is it called ‘neoliberalism?’  Here at we’ve given up puzzling it out. Maybe we seriously need an academic lecture on the terms (which we’re avoiding). In any case, we’ve decided that it’s all down to whether you want to slam liberals or conservatives on your way to explaining what a disaster “it” has been as a governing principle for the last few decades. Whichever one it is, it unfortunately continues to be a governing principle in many advanced countries today.

One product of this political philosophy has been unaffordable housing, the lack of which became a serious crisis (or a series of crises if you wish to nitpick) well before COVID-19. Now, as literally millions of out of work citizens face eviction or foreclosure, unaffordable housing promises to become a public health disaster on a scale with infectious disease pandemics.

One of the supposed triumphs of small-government conservatism/neoliberalism has been to denigrate the historic successes of social housing. Arguments have been accepted and implemented that undermine a critically important public good, one that lifted modernizing nations above the mire of their ubiquitous slums.

We need that public good back again, urgently. From an American perspective, read more in Shelterforce: We Need a Federal Housing Agency