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'Housing for All' podcast: Everything you need to know about reforming the American Housing System

I highly recommend listening to 'Housing for All', an 8-part podcast on the history of housing policy in America, and examples of how other countries have developed social housing programs. If you're interested in how social housing could work in the US, this is a must-listen. My key takeaways come from learning other countries histories... housing crises can be overcome if there is political will and a clear plan!

Episodes 1 and 2 focus on housing systems around the world that do not have the problems of the American housing system. What can we learn from these examples?

  • In episode 1 part 1, Chris shocks Mary and Andrew with the two worst things he’s ever heard about housing in America.

  • In episode 1 part 2, we learn about the housing systems of Norway and Singapore. Both have a 90%+ homeownership rate (the US’s is only 65%), and over 80% of people in Singapore live in luxurious public housing.

  • In episode 2 part 1, we learn about the housing system of the Netherlands, where the vast majority of rental housing is public, and almost all for-profit rental housing has the same rent controls as public housing.

  • In episode 2 part 2, we learn about the housing system of Austria, which also boasts luxurious public housing. Rent controls and landlord-tenant regulations are so strict that renting is a more secure than owning, and people often choose to rent when they could afford to buy. We also learn about Sweden, which has a mix of homeownership, housing cooperatives, public housing, and strictly regulated for-profit rental housing.

We all live in public housing!

Episodes 3 and 4 highlight the trillions of dollars devoted to subsidizing housing in the United States. It is no exaggeration to say that we all live in public housing.

  • In episode 3 part 1, we learn about what the American housing system was like before the major New Deal reforms that are still in place today. Once we understand the problems they were meant to solve, we can understand how these programs, like Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration, make our housing system possible.

  • In episode 3 part 2 — armed with knowledge of how Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System work — we can see how all homeowners live in public housing. Without trillions of dollars of federal government subsidy, very few of us could hope to become homeowners, and we would pay more for worse housing.

  • In episode 4 part 1, we learn how the federal government supports for-profit rental housing. As with home ownership, these subsidies are not obvious and usually not a matter of public record. Nevertheless, nearly all for-profit rental housing has been directly — and massively — subsidized by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, HUD, the USDA, the Federal Housing Administration, the IRS, and others.

  • In episode 4 part 2, we look at the big picture. Despite tremendous public resources supporting housing, the public gets little to no say in the crucial decisions of our housing system. Without exaggeration, Americans are paying taxes to support the landlords who hike rents and evict them, the banks that aggressively foreclose on them, and the developers who are gentrifying them out of their own neighborhoods.

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