After decades of neglect, housing policy has once again become visibly politicized in the U.S., a testament to effective organizing by groups like KC Tenants and Moms for Housing. As a result, politicians everywhere, from President Joe Biden to candidates for mayor in NYC, suddenly have housing proposals.
Public-facing policy proposals–whether you encounter them on a candidate’s website or during a mayor’s State of the City–can be difficult to parse because they serve multiple purposes: a signal to a politician’s constituencies, a strike against political opposition, and (maybe!) a plan for accountable governance.
To truly reshape housing would require major changes to our economic system, beyond the control of any single elected official. At the same time, despite Reaganite promises to get the government out of housing, policy heavily shapes the way the U.S. housing system works. That is why political housing plans, whether they are coming from a city council or presidential candidate, hold meaning.
Here are five questions I use to evaluate housing policy proposals: