The overall goal, to flesh out the language of the 1949 Fair Housing Act, is to have enough decent housing, in locations where people want to live, with sufficient opportunities that people with even the lowest incomes can pay for.

Starting with things that are already in place, below are a set of objectives and policy improvements that could lead to further progress and ultimately to the desired result. This is hardly a complete strategy, but I hope it presents a basic idea of what needs to get done and how it might happen.

  • Advance Advocacy and Organizing Around Fair Housing
  • Build Substantially More Allies
  • Expand the Housing Choice Voucher Program
    • Use vouchers to improve Fair Housing
    • Improving collaboration
    • Increase project-basing
    • Make the program easier to use
  • Create More Affordable Housing
    • Expand federal development subsidies
    • Crunch the numbers
    • Enforce equity protections
    • Support community-based non-profits
  • Enhance Housing Stabilization Services and Laws

As more and more people have affordable housing, with costs covered by the federal government, it will raise the question whether more substantial changes are called for – to increase efficiency and fairness, and treat housing less like a commodity and more like a public good. The complex interaction with PHAs under the voucher program could be eliminated if tenants received cash based on the need to pay rent, but are allowed to decide how best to use the cash themselves.

Innovative strategies will require thinking outside of the box, like with limited equity cooperatives: a model where residents as a group own the property, and the value of financial appreciation stays with the collective.

Further outside the box would be a more universal guarantee: rather than everyone who needs it getting help paying rent, we can imagine a system where everyone gets a modest home, for free, at age 22, and can live in it or trade it back in for a new model if they move or their family composition changes, the way that every parent now can send their five-year-old to their public school. If people wanted more than “modest” they could certainly pay for that, the way some people pay for private school now, but it would become an expectation that government would ensure that decent housing is available to everyone. People who rely now on their homes as investments would have money to invest in less volatile and more job-intensive assets.

Read the full article about housing by Steve Berg at National Alliance to End Homelessness.