Time for a Serious Look at Housing Problems and Policy
Whilernthe nation is transfixed by pictures of Louisiana Sweet Crude gushing into thernGulf, forces are beginning to coalesce around a very different topic that couldrnultimately have a greater national impact: the nation's housing crisis.</p
Thatrnstatement is not as obtuse as it seems in a country which has been obsessed withrnreal estate for the last 20 years. Housing goes beyond a fascination with thernrapid increase in the value of the neighbor's house or how many people arerndefaulting on their mortgages; these are factors, symptoms, causes of somethingrnmuch larger. We see indications that players in Washington andrnelsewhere know that the nation need to pay attention to where and under whatrnconditions Americans take shelter.</p
Therntopic is daunting. How a societyrnprovides housing for its citizens has implications far beyond bricks andrnmortar. The impact of a misguidedrnhousing policy and the rules, regulations, greed, fraud, and profiteering that arosernfrom it have been playing out across the entire economy for the last threernyears and that is only part of the picture. rnHousing impacts individuals and communities in other ways – social andrneducational; its health, employment, and environment – to name just a few. </p
Wernknow that stable housing has a strong positive impact on a single individual orrnfamily and that, in its absence, the problems can be profound. An adult without a permanent address hasrndifficulty finding employment, maintaining a healthful lifestyle, or a medicalrnregime. A family without stable and affordable housing cannot access manyrnsocial and health related services, or provide adequate clothing and nutrition;rnits children become transient students, frequently with social andrnpsychological problems. Imagine howrnthose individual small human problems impact the schools which must educate therntransient and troubled students, a health system that must cope with crisisrnrather than prevention, an increase the burden on law enforcement and thernsocial network. </p
Addrnto this list the effect on whole cities of the vacant and deterioratingrnproperties that have been or soon will be foreclosed and the problem of housingrntheir dispossessed former homeowners and renters, not to mention the lostrnproperty tax revenues. Banks are closing at rates not seen since therndepression, largely because they took unholy risks – on housing.</p
Itrnis beyond time to take a holistic look at the entire housing universe, and wernsee hope that is beginning to happen. Inrnthe last few weeks MND has featured articles a possible shift in public policy fromrnone that favors home ownership to an acceptance that rental housing should bernencouraged and accommodated. Recentlyrnthe Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development steppedrnup their involvement in housing the nation's veterans. In today's edition there are articles on arnnew report to Congress on the state of the homeless in this country and anotherrnon the upcoming release of a “comprehensive strategy” to prevent andrnend homelessness. Housing agencies andrnlenders are still fighting an endgame on the foreclosure front, but it is clearrnthat some policymakers are moving on.</p
Wernbelieve that the complicated situation we have just outlined contains both arnlot of problems and some of the solutions. rnOver the next months MND is going to examine the scope and significantrnof many issues under the broad heading of housing, including homelessness,rnaffordable housing, and housing policy, and some possible approaches andrnsolutions As always, we welcome and value your input.</p
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