Ask the Tough Questions

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

How can housing policy be responsive to today’s urgent needs (e.g., foreclosures, a sluggish housing market, affordability, etc.) and simultaneously address long-term trends (e.g., an aging population, growth of younger households)?

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There are urgent needs, but there are many forces trying address them - public interest groups, for-profit entities, Congressmen, lobbyists, mayors, constituents, bankers, Federal Reservists, White House staff, presidential and other candidates, the media, academicians, BPC’s Housing Commission should not deal with the low-hanging fruit - homeowners with under-water mortgages, the elderly and others getting no savings interest, the homeless who need shelter, and the jobless. Instead it should pose real policy questions - the BIG picture, the next 10 to 40 year verities, the new paradigms - thus removing itself from the current past while understanding its lessons.

We could use a cross-disciplined, holistic blueprint going forward that could be translated into a new Housing Act, repealing or substituting for the Housing Act of 1937 and its successors. The 1968 Housing Act was the last legislation to have substantial numerical (10-year) goals.  This commission is ideally placed to create goals and lobby for their realization.

Why not have the commissioners ask the tough questions e.g., Should there be a constitutional amendment guaranteeing shelter? If a scenario of 50% renters to 50% homeowners is happening in this country, what would be the ramifications? What if we did away with the Housing Act of 1937? Or HUD? What is a sustainable model for collecting and re-distributing funds? What role and paradigms will technology play in the next 50 years in shaping the urban area?  How do you harness the billions of dollars spent for urban research and development in the entire federal government? What are some best practices for integrated land use/transport systems?

This commission has the potential to generate momentum toward long-term housing policy reform rather than to get bogged down in the current existing questions already being addressed by so many others.

Kent Watkins is Chairman of the National Academy of Housing and Sustainable Development.


Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC's website, as well as be shared regularly with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.

Have a pressing question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments section. We encourage you and our expert bloggers to add comments, contributing to the national dialogue on solutions for the future of the housing sector.

Expert bloggers are not members of the BPC Housing Commission. Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Housing Commission, its Co-Chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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