Paying the Price for Taking Housing for Granted
Who are unconventional stakeholders who can help rally support for housing?
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Housing is the only component of urban infrastructure that every one of us uses every day, and yet we have come to take it for granted, and assume that housing is a problem only for ‘those people,’ the poor or elderly or disabled or disturbed who need our charitable support. We’ve come to think of our housing as an end in itself, instead of seeing it as a place of life transformation:
- In housing, children grow into adults, and adults make more children … or families sunder and everyone pays the price.
- In housing, those with disabilities or life setbacks regain their emotional and spiritual footing … or they don’t, and become homeless.
- In housing, the elderly live with independence, dignity, and happiness … or they don’t, and they move out involuntarily, often horizontally, to assisted living, nursing home, hospital, or hospice – all places where they do not wish to go.
When affordable housing fails, every other part of government pays a price:
- Homeless shelters become overcrowded; so do jails.
- Foster homes have more troubled youth to take in.
- Unemployment spikes because it’s hard to hold or get a job when you have no home, and it’s hard to up stakes and move home when you are anchored to an underwater asset.
- The health-care system becomes overloaded and its costs skyrocket.
Housing is the place where people improve their lives, and in societal or governmental terms, it’s the ideal nexus for service providers to deliver life-improving help to people who need and want help.
Now ask yourself, Why aren’t those people housing’s biggest advocates?
Perhaps they’re defending their own funding turf, or their intellectual turf. Perhaps they’ve never thought of reversing their polarity and bringing their service to the people instead of expecting the people to come to the service. Perhaps they take housing for granted. Perhaps they’ve never made the link.
Whatever the reason, they should be our allies, and many of them are not. That’s not their fault, it’s ours.
David A. Smith is the founder and chairman of Recap Real Estate Advisors.
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