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How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Policies

By Jenny Schuetz
Cvr: Fixer Upper

Offering practical ideas for fixing problems that make too many Americans unable to afford adequate housing

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the poorest one-fifth of U.S. families struggled to pay the rent or mortgage without foregoing other necessities. A growing number of middle-income families face difficult tradeoffs in their housing choices: devote a larger chunk of their paycheck to housing costs or endure long commutes. More than 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act was passed, Black homeownership rates are 30 percentage points lower than those of white households, and most cities still have high levels of racial segregation. Most new housing is built in car-dependent areas on the exurban fringe, far from jobs and public transportation, even as the impacts of climate change become ever more apparent.

The United States doesn’t have an integrated, coherent housing policy to deal with these problems. Rather, it has lots of different policies designed and implemented by a variety of public agencies. Where and how governments choose to invest public funds in roads, public transportation, and other infrastructure has profound implications for housing prices and availability.

This book provides an action plan for how federal, state, and local policies should be restructured to achieve better housing outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. The author proposes systemic change in the political processes regulating housing production, federal tax policy, funding for transportation and infrastructure, and greater federal support for the social safety net. One possible driving force for some of these changes could be the potential emergence of new coalitions that align the economic and political incentives of young, racially diverse, urban renter households with conservatives who favor limited government.

As the first book addressing the broad set of local, state, and national housing policies, this book is for policymakers, journalists, and advocacy groups engaged in the housing field, as well as general readers. The book also will make an excellent teaching resource for advanced undergraduate or master’s courses in urban planning and public policy.

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