Outraged at another twisted talking point from the opposition, I crafted my post.
Take that you Orwellian wildebeest.
But she asked the good and honest question.
“Nathan, if you were designing a great housing solution, what would it be? Because I'd like us to stop shooting civilians and starting wars.”
Well, I was ready.
“To be perfectly honest, I think it's time to start looking at land and housing as public utilities / public goods, instead of commodified and financialized private assets upon whose exponential appreciation we depend on for growth and retirement security. The math just isn't viable within the current paradigm.
My buddy Cole posted this summary from a book called In Defense of Housing today, which strikes me as strong:
1) Decommodify and de-financialise the housing system through tools that include rent controls, more secure tenancies, public ownership of land, public financing, limits on speculation, and regulations on home financing mechanisms
2) Greatly expand the number of housing units created, owned and operated by the public sector.
3) Encourage alternative forms of tenancy such as cooperative, mutual, communal, limited equity co-ownership, land trusts, etc.
4) Democratize housing management and policy ensuring that people who live in houses are considered the experts of their own homes, neighborhoods, and cities.
5) Broaden housing struggles to understand that all of our liberation movements are interconnected, and need to become global in scale in order to compete with transnational investors and corporations determining the fate of households across the planet.
It would need a financing mechanism, and I'm interested in chartering public banks for that purpose. On top of that, it seems we need something to replace the wealth building role home and property ownership plays in middle class lives (or, better stated, we need an alternative security for retirement and old age) -- for which there are many proposals.”
Does that include changes in zoning policy? Because feeling that right now zoning and land use policy interferes with innovation solutions. She asked again. Either the market or the public utility framework would require zoni"ng and land use changes, is that right?
“Yes,” I said.
“Zoning -- and the beaurocratic process of permitting/entitling land -- is a major part of accomplishing #2. This website has an impressive rundown of the ways to get there categorized under "II. Promote affordability by reducing barriers to new supply." I'm less inclined toward the market driven strategies they name, per my public utility framework above.
Trying to dig deeper…
A problem arrises when you intensify land use without rent control, widespread community land trusts, or public ownership of the land/housing stock. In a growing city with a private market, land values, and thus rents, rise faster than the added stock from high density development can reduce demand, and so costs still rise.
Think of very dense cities in the US. Not exactly affordable. Density--or, stated differently, the greater unit production that high-density zoning allows--cannot by itself adequately contribute to affordability over the long-term (acolytes for this strategy will name Dallas and Houston as two cities with basically no zoning, adding lots of units, and keeping affordability sort of under control, but, as a former Texan, their neoliberal land markets and hyper-sprawl are so out of control that we hardly want them to be the model for the city of the future).
Density is great for urban design, walkability and transit, and thus sustainability, but without some way to stabilize land costs, these things cannot produce equity in housing. So -- I am pro-density, a Yes in My Backyard-er, but believe these things will only bring about the change we need within a broader policy stabilization context, which I've ultimately been led to believe means social housing (spoken as someone with no socialist stake in the ground).”
Aren’t I smart. All that reading sure pays off don’t it.
Then the real question came.
Yes, my friend. That’s it.
So I wrote…
“And therein lies the crux of the problem. What's the transition plan when we are all addicted to the world as it is, impoverished for alternative imagination, close-hearted to those that would propose them, largely satiated by the present order (or, at least those with power are satiated), and fearful of (hateful and violent toward?) those Others to whom we might come in contact were things to change?
And so have I been driven to mysticism to avert despair. To storytelling to spread that imagination when possible and restore my own hope. To a long-view of history when I need consoling. To pointing to Jesus time and again on this damn website because I know my evangelicals are listening. To rage-laced activism when the moment seems to demand it. To deep cultivation of the lives of those around us and of our own soul. To the building of prophetic communities where we can try to breathe out that different story in the here and now whenever possible. To compromise when I must. To tear-filled cries of Maranatha, oh Lord just come. Just come with your new creation already. To listening and learning and adapting and admitting I will never have an adequate theory of change, and no one else ever has either.”
To listening and learning and adapting and admitting I will never have an adequate theory of change, and no one else ever has either.
I’ve needed to write those words to myself for some time.
I remember saying, in all the unwell bravado of my Enneagram One-ness, “I will never be satisfied until my life is indistinguishable from Jesus and the world is indistinguishable from the Kingdom of God.”
I said it quite a few times. And I was often quite unhappy.
With grace & joy.
I write these words weekly now, in the margin of my weekly to do list. With grace & joy. The most aspirational part of my always impassioned, typically over-intellectualized disposition toward perfecting myself and everything else.
With grace. And with joy.
All the answers are fine. I want to seek them and seek them more clearly.
But until we can accept the beautiful imperfection amidst the journey toward shalom, we will never taste the fruit of shalom sparking here in the now.