Housing and the Cooperative Commonwealth

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Siedlung Britz, Berlin, 1925–30, designed by Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner
Siedlung Britz, Berlin, 1925–30, designed by Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner
Siedlung Britz, Berlin, 1925–30, designed by Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner
Siedlung Britz, Berlin, 1925–30, designed by Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner

In America we have an escalating crisis of affordability in housing — yet we are overlooking one of the best and most basic solutions.

In recent years the appeal of suburbia has declined and cities are once again booming. But while new residential towers are rising in Manhattan and San Francisco, it’s increasingly difficult for anyone not working on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley to find a place to live. As economics reporter Shaila Dewan wrote recently in The New York Times Magazine:

The developed world’s wealthiest cities are facing housing crises so acute that not only low-income workers, but also the middle and creative classes, find them increasingly difficult places to afford.

Dewan points out that the problem is made thornier still because some of the usual solutions — subsidizing rents, constructing new buildings, improving public parks, schools, and transit — can actually intensify unaffordability; they can make the city even more desirable and ultimately push out the very people they are trying to help. All of which raises a telling question: Why aren’t policy makers in the United States embracing housing models that avoid this unvirtuous cycle — models outside the private market? []

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