Realizing a Right to Housing in Philadelphia: Towards a Cohesive Strategy
This paper is an intervention into the market-based housing policy status quo in the United States, and the city I call home, Philadelphia. It is also an intervention into the single-issue activism and advocacy that dominates in social movement circles that deal with housing issues. I will argue that current housing policy in the United States is layered upon generations of racialized public policy that has always centered market ideology at the expense of human flourishing, and therefore an ameliorative approach that seeks to tweak current policy will not be able to adequately address either the structural racism built into the US housing market or the gross distributional inequities the market produces. Instead, I will build the case for a transformative approach that not only critiques the status quo, but parts ways with it to create a realm of struggle for an ideological and instrumental right to housing. Continue reading “Imagining Housing Justice Under Late Capitalism”→
I traveled to Vienna in July/August 2017 to get a feel for the city and see for myself what Vienna’s social housing looks like on the ground, as well as to learn from the perspective of people living there. Photos from that trip are interspersed throughout this post to give context and help the reader better imagine social housing. There’s also a great exhibit up at the Center for Architecture in NYC through May 19, 2018 called “Social Housing – New European Projects” that I highly recommend for anyone looking for more inspiration and to get an idea about the kinds of problems (poverty, social isolation, aging, etc.) that these social housing projects (in conjunction with social programs) have set out to address. Lastly, as I finished my thesis (of which this post is a part), Dr. Peter Dreier from Occidental College in Los Angeles published a great article called “Why America Needs More Social Housing” in American Prospect. Definitely worth a read for even more of the Vienna social housing context and ideas for why social housing (suited to the geography and social history of a particular city of course) would go a long way towards addressing the housing crisis in a transformative way.
Philadelphia had the highest poverty rate of all the big cities in the United States in 2016. According to Shared Prosperity, “28% of Philadelphians – between 430,000 and 440,000 people – live below the federal poverty level, including 39% (135,000) of children, 27% (250,000) of work-age adults and 17% (32,000) of seniors. This reflects a sharp increase from Philly’s 1960 low of 15.4% and a divergence from the national trend of slowly decreasing poverty (aside from the increase related to The Great Recession).
I designed this map to be a poster-sized map that people in Philly could hang it on their wall and feel both inspired and called to action. Not only does it give people a sense geographically of where their various voting districts are, it also gives them relevant contact information so that they can put pressure on their elected officials when the moment calls for it. At the same time, the map calls attention to some of Philadelphia’s social movement assets, and marks locations that I see as spaces of hope in Philadelphia: worker cooperatives, independent book stores, and congregations affiliated with The New Sanctuary Movement and POWER (both of which I have been personally involved with). The Kickstarter did not pan out in the end, but I was able to raise more than $3,000 primarily from my own network of colleagues, friends, academics, and activists in a short period of time.
The purpose of this postcard was to advertise the newly-created Pennypack in the Delaware park. Because the Fairmount Park system in Philadelphia is so expansive, I focused on the excellent birding opportunities in this particular park due to its location – there are eagles’ nests here!