The FWD Special: Affordable Housing’s Big Picture

Guest Author: Tom Jacobson, VCU Adjunct Planning Instructor and LUEP Education Director

The FWD #SE11 • 303 Words

When thinking about housing solutions, let’s make sure we don’t miss the forest for the trees.

Significant progress is being made in the production of new affordable housing and financing for the crescendoing housing crisis. However, the scale of the problem has grown for decades and will continue unless we understand and address the economy’s big picture.

Here’s why. Look at these graphs from the Pew Research Center.

Almost 50 years of relative income loss for the middle class. Consequently, wages have not kept up with rising housing costs for more and more Americans.

Our country’s increased productivity and resultant income and wealth has landed in the coffers of our upper income households. For decades, the rich got richer and the middle and lower classes poorer. The economic system is “rigged” against most Americans.

Why? Because Wall Street has increased their profitability and lowered their tax bill. Business monopolies are rising. Big money, corporations, and banks have heavily influenced governments to favor their interests. Lobbying by former high government officials is rising. Today, corporate responsibility is only to the shareholders and exclusive of responsibility to workers and communities that existed before 1980.

If income and eventually wealth can grow concurrent with the future productivity of our country, the private housing market can provide housing for a greater portion of the middle class. Our government and non-profit focus can then return to the needs of low-income households. 

I’m sure you’re thinking this is not an easy fix. However, first comes awareness; then, the many disadvantaged households on the left and right can unite on a political agenda to return power and financial growth to the people. The government-private sector balance from 1950 to 1980 provides a model. Let’s continue working hard to construct affordable housing and also work to build a fairer economic system.


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