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Acton Institute writer puts faith in the market to solve the housing crisis, is dismissive of rent control as a solution

January 27, 2020

Last week, Acton Institute writer, Dan Hugger, wrote an article headlined, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweets a blueprint for a housing crisis

The Acton writer acknowledges that there is a housing crisis, but frames the solution around the market, instead of policy or grassroots organizing. Hugger goes on to cite Kevin Erdmann’s book, Shut Out, but omits the critique of gentrification that is in the paragraph right after the one the Acton writer cites. 

The Acton writer then goes on to say:

Senator Sanders’ call for national rent control does nothing about this underlying shortage but rather exacerbates it. 

The Acton writer is correct to point out that rent control by itself would be inadequate, plus it would take too long in most states to get rent control passed. However, grassroots organizing by tenant unions across the country have demonstrated that it is more effective to pressure landlords/property management companies, than to wait for states to pass rent control policies.

The Acton writer concludes with his own solutions to the housing crisis. He offers a vague comment about having fewer barriers for developers and one concrete suggestions about flexible zoning, citing Oregon and California’s ban on single family zoning. I agree that more flexible zoning would be important, but if the Acton writer looked beyond the tweet from Bernie Sanders, he would actually see there is a pretty robust plan for dealing with the housing crisis.

Here is what Senator Sanders’ campaign is calling for: 

  • End the housing crisis by investing $2.5 trillion to build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units.
  • Protect tenants by implementing a national rent control standard, a “just-cause” requirement for evictions, and ensuring the right to counsel in housing disputes.
  • Make rent affordable by making Section 8 vouchers available to all eligible families without a waitlist and strengthening the Fair Housing Act.
  • Combat gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation, and speculation.
  • End homelessness and ensure fair housing for all
  • Revitalize public housing by investing $70 billion to repair, decarbonize, and build new public housing.

This platform is what housing advocates, like Right to the City and Hones for All national, having been calling for for more than a decade.

The Acton writer should get their facts straight instead of primarily calling for the market to solve all of our problems. The market approach to problem solving is what the Acton Institute always promotes, which is no surprise to those who have read this blog before. In addition, it seems that the Acton Institute was clearly picking on Senator Sanders, considering their contempt for the ideals of socialism and anybody who espouses them, which I suspect was the real motivation for this post, the housing crisis was merely a mechanism to be dismissive of socialist policies in favor of Neo-Liberal market policies.

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