- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.
- This should be required reading for anyone thinking about housing policy in the United States. So often we think only of helping people afford houses, but housing affordability needs to include renters, too. 'Evicted' discusses the real-life consequences of failing to treat housing as a human right that all Americans deserve.
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.
- Every chapter, I thought: 'Okay, this must be it. Now I've learned everything the government did to cause segregation in America.' And then every chapter, I learned more. Another book that should be required reading for anyone trying to shape housing policy in the US. We must reckon with our racist past, including in the field of housing policy at all levels of American society, in order to correct its wrongs.
Short Policy Insights
- "Housing can't be both a good investment and affordable". This piece from CityLab breaks down the contradiction inherent in how Americans think about housing: we want it to be affordable for people at all income levels, but past generations were told over and over again that housing is an investment vehicle that will increase their net worth reliably over a life time.
- If home prices keep going up, how are young people supposed to find a place to live if they didn't already receive wealth from their parents' generation, that they are able to immediately transfer back via home purchases to older generations?
- Similarly, read more on the contradictions in American housing policy and especially "Why Housing Policy Feels Like Generational Warfare" from The Atlantic.
- "Nine Rules for Better Housing Policy" from the Brookings Insititution. What goals should we be aiming for in designing new housing policies, and what pitfalls should we be careful to avoid?
- "Why Everyone's Talking about Upzoning". Universal upzoning is a necessary but insufficient tactic for making safe housing affordable for all people in the US.
- "Why Are Developers Only Building Luxury Housing?" Sometimes it seems like the only thing being built is housing that is wildly out of reach for anyone but the richest among us. What market and regulatory factors are behind this phenomenon? StrongTowns explains.
- Proposed policies for promoting quality & affordable housing in Lincoln, from yours truly. Written during my campaign for Lincoln city council, these are the policies I think would have the greatest impact at furthering the goals of an abundance of quality afforadable housing in Lincoln.
- The Lincoln Journal Star reports on Lincoln's affordable housing needs
- Renters Together writes: We need action on affordable housing, not Mayor Beutler's proposed study. A piece I helped draft alongside the listed members of Renters Together, though my name was excluded from the byline as I was running for city council at the time and the editorial board can't play favorites. (Except, of course, for when it does.) Anyways, these are the policies Renters Together LNK would like to see. We don't need to define affordable housing or who needs it; HUD and our own Urban Development department's Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing has done that. What we need now is to take action, even actions that inconvenience the already affluent.
Satirical Looks at the Opposition
- "I will do anything to end homelessness, except build more homes.". Many politicians, as well as regular residents, follow this philosophy. They care a lot about affordable housing, at least in campaign advertising, unless it will inconvenience literally anyone who already has a home they can afford.
"Ending homelessness doesn’t mean building more homes because this town is full of homes already, especially mine, which is a single-family mini-mansion on an acre lot that I inherited from my parents and/or managed to purchase with the kind of job and bank terms and economic equality that don’t exist anymore for anyone and only ever really existed for well-educated white Americans.... I’m a good person, a generous person, and what made me the person I am is having to work hard for everything my parents gave me, and everything I will, in turn, give to my children....I know we need more housing, but I was here first and I’m not giving up even one blade of grass on my water-guzzling, pesticide-leaching lawn..."
- "Every NIMBY's Speech at a Public Hearing". Except follows, but just read it all because it's all true.
"And so all this so-called 'evidence' about how policies have worked in other towns simply does not apply to us. No evidence applies to us. Our town exists in a fog of mystery and enigmatic strangeness, and nothing that happens outside city boundaries should have any bearing on how we govern or exist.
The second thing the council must understand is that subject-specific expertise built up through a lifetime of education and research doesn’t mean much unless you are also able to make exaggerated claims that stoke fear and resentment, ideally combined with a kind of faux-folksiness that harkens back to an age that never existed. Am I impressed that you have a Ph.D. in city planning or education or environmental science and are using your expertise to make the commons more equitable, livable, just, and human-centered? I mean, maybe. But the thing is, you haven’t frightened me with your expertise. There has been no 'Oh God, the Other is taking over and we must stop them from inflicting their strange ways on our all-American life' moment tonight. And so, I’m afraid, you have wasted all of our time."
Great Websites to Explore
- The National Low Income Housing Coalition is chock full of analysis of the current housing situation in the US, and deep analysis on policies that can help, alongside organizing resources to help us get there.
- CityLab for reporting and analysis of all the issues faced by modern cities and their possible solutions.
- Strong Towns is a nonprofit dedicated to making communities financially strong and resilient, based on an understanding of how towns actually work.
- Curbed - Property Lines series for reporting on all things housing and real-estate, and Curbed News for news affecting cities. The rest of Curbed for fascinating looks at the way people live.