Panel: Homes For All? The Future of Public Housing

  • Speakers:
    Angela Hurlock, Chair, Chicago Housing Authority
    Daffney Moore, Chief Opportunity Zone Officer, St. Louis Development Corporation
    Maria Vassilakou, Advisor and Advocate for Cities, Entrepreneur
  • Moderator:
    Heather Way, Clinical Professor and Director, ECDC, University of Texas Austin Law School

5 Key Takeways

  • 1. The United States has never come close to achieving the vision of quality housing for all. Since the inception of public housing in the 1930s, after the Great Depression, public housing in the United States has had a checkered history and suffered from many setbacks including persistent underfunding, lack of maintenance of public housing infrastructure, to racial and economic segregation, red-lining of communities, “not in my backyard” policies, and more.
  • 2. Vienna‘s successful social housing model is innovative, economically sustainable, and profitable. About a century ago, Vienna was facing a massive housing crisis and leadership at the time embarked on an ambitious subsidized housing program in the 20s and 30s. Today, 62% of residents live in public housing, says Maria Vassilakou, reflecting the middle class and allowing mixed income communities to be spread throughout the city. Their robust public housing system involves collaborative planning, incorporating citizens in the community-building process, and operates based on an equitable economic framework that allows money to be reinvested back into the system while being profitable for investors.
  • 3. One of the major barriers to housing is the perception of second class citizens. Affordable housing must be viewed differently by leadership and the community. We must eradicate stigmas, including perceptions that only poor, uneducated, unemployed, and/or low income people live in public housing. Daffney Moore says one of her pet peeves is the design of public housing. If the cost of both public housing and market rate housing is the same, why does the appearance have to be so different, contributing to harmful stigmas regarding public housing. Public housing needs higher standards of quality in design, but also in terms of reinvestment.
  • 4. Land Policy is crucial for affordability. Land prices are becoming more and more unaffordable, says Maria Vassilakou, who advises cities to cooperate on an active land policy. Vienna is engaging in active land policy to keep prices of land affordable in order to sustain their public housing model.
  • 5. Create an ecosystem for public housing to thrive, where schools, jobs, supermarkets, businesses, retail stores, transportation, and more are accessible. Co-locating housing with the amenities needed will prevent displacements and force outs of neighborhoods, since many leave public housing because there are not enough resources for them to succeed. Angela Hurlock says this will take creative partnerships and cross-financing models to ensure the services are included in development plans. No one wants to be isolated.

Featured photo by Christopher Lin on Unsplash