Social housing with a troubled history

From Howard Husock, New York, NY, US

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Sir, The suggestion in “Anatomy of a housing disaster” (The Big Read, June 30) that the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy should lead to a revival of social housing construction overlooks the troubled history of such government-led development.

Here in New York, the city’s housing authority owns and operates 176,000 units and faces a backlog of deferred maintenance estimated at $18bn. Roofs, plumbing, heating and water systems routinely need emergency repairs. The original US public housing model, in which tenant rents would support operating costs, has long since proved unworkable. Many of the 326 developments are distant from basic amenities, such as food markets. The problems of maintenance in public housing have led widely to its demolition across the US.

Far better to look to a private housing market that is well regulated — in contrast to the Grenfell situation — for a sustainable model.

Howard Husock

Vice-President, Research and Publications,

Manhattan Institute,

New York, NY, US

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