I recently had the chance to discuss an important topic with my friends at multihousingnews.com, the current housing problem in America. There is a tremendous housing problem in America. It was also the case 45 years ago, when I studied urban issues in graduate school. Some things have gotten better; some have not. But if we make some changes now, in another 45 years the situation might be somewhat better.


Fifty years ago, when rioting spread through American cities, we as a country had a two-pronged housing crisis. First, there were thousands of Americans living in homes that were physically deteriorated, lacked basic infrastructure, and were very far from being “decent, safe and sanitary.” Second was a financial crisis: Many Americans were paying far more than 30 percent of their income for rent.

We have done a remarkably good job of eliminating much of the substandard housing that existed not only in our cities but throughout our rural countryside. What we haven’t been as successful dealing with is the affordability problem. According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing’s just published “State of the Nation’s Housing—2016,” more than a third of our citizens pay greater than 30 percent of their income for housing. And of those people, almost half pay 50 percent or more of their income for shelter.

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