Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Poat 16: A digression: the alternative to our current dysfunctional model of affordable housing

As always, with the exception of public figures, I use altered names to protect the individuals in this history. 

There are models of affordable housing that do work -- and are working -- in places like Vienna and Singapore. In Vienna, some 60% of residents live in public housing; In Singapore 80%, down from 86%. These numbers imply that much of the middle class, maybe in Singapore the entire middle class, in these cities live in public housing. Where NYC's public housing is a revenue drain, on the one hand, and restricted to a demographic that has little voting or economic power, in Vienna and Singapore the housing is sustainable and available to a broad public that has economic and political strength. That strength ensures that the local government attends to its needs, including maintaining the housing. And if low and middle income residents live in the same housing, then all reap the benefits of that strength together. 

By contrast, NYCHA is exclusively a low income landlord. It requires a funding stream outside its tenants, but because those tenants have no political clout, there is no reliable funding stream from the government. Our model is systematically dysfunctional. It is designed to fail. Adding public housing for low income families will not fix that system. Adding housing for all incomes is such a fix. Until then, public housing will not have a reliable funding stream or political support or government dedication to housing as a right. It can't be a right for some and not for others. It just doesn't work politically. 

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