The Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance held a hearing on Thursday entitled “The Future of Housing in America: A Comparison of the United Kingdom and United States Models for Affordable Housing.”
The aim, from my quick reaction, is to find alternative financing for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The primary focus, it seems, is to assess affordable and rental housing programs.
It’s true that the financing of social housing operates very differently in the two systems. But let’s be 100% clear: that is where the comparison ends.
The thought that affordable housing in the U.K. somehow offers a better social alternative is laughable, at the very least.
This is from a release on the topic from the subcommittee:
In the 1980s, the United Kingdom was facing similar issues to what we find America in today. Generational poverty led to recurring dependence on the same housing projects and outdated systems. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, innovation and ownership was invited into the public housing sector by generating significant private capital investments and incorporating private-sector management practices.
Let’s put aside the very, very popular feeling in the U.K. that most, if not all, of Thatcher’s “innovations” were extremely disastrous to the socioeconomic makeup of anywhere but the Home Counties.
Instead let’s focus on this comment:
“The current public housing system, including HUD itself, rationalizes structure and process over social outcomes, a particularly poor set of choices in the face of the budget numbers that are provided for our programs,” said Gregory Russ, Executive Director, Cambridge Housing Authority.
The current HUD director Julián Castro is actually a well-known social outcomes kind of leader, so let’s not insult the intentions of HUD in an effort to promote a U.K. housing system. You don't need to look far for an example: he wants landlords to rent to convicted criminals.
Instead, let's discuss an implementation of the Large Scale Voluntary Transfer. Isn’t this nothing more than a privatization of the housing system?
Answer me this, where in this program do the needs of American families outweigh the need of private investors to see a return?
The answer is, it doesn’t.
The LSVT estates of London itself contain far greater benefits that the ghettos of any large American city. There is greater access to public transport, more jobs, less discrimination and more integration.
Plus, there is a greater absence of food deserts, which, according to the American Nutrition Association, are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is a much larger issue to affordable housing in the United States.
So one would think there are more success stories in the UK. And, they'd be wrong to do so.
Despite these touted benefits, the citizenry achieve a higher class standing at no greater rate in the U.S. Correct me, if I’m wrong, after all you are the experts.
"...I believe that the United States' traditional public housing program is no longer viable in its current form to continue serving the needs of low-income Americans," said Richard Gentry, president and chief executive officer, San Diego Housing Commission.
That may be the case, but looking for an answer in the U.K. affordable housing finance model will not help more Americans achieve the American Dream.
This white paper from the U.K. Housing Corporation states, "There is little difference in the income profiles between non-LSVT housing association and LSVT housing association households in the South East."
So the people are just as bad off, regardless of how their housing is financed. Is this the answer we want?
It’s naïve to think housing policy benefits can be adopted without assuming housing policy negatives.
If Politicos want to refinance HUD, fine.
But they shouldn’t start by looking in the wrong place.