Economics of Housing

Alex Schwartz talking about Housing and Homesteading. Audio of the interview

I post the audio of my interview to Alex Schwartz, professor of  Housing Policy at The New School. He says things that can be interesting for all groups.


These were my questions:

1. Your book “Housing policy in US” was written in 2006, just before the subprime mortgage crisis, what have changed in the country and in NYC since that? Did the federal economical devices for housing (such as the tax credits), that you describe so well in the book, have contributed to provoke somehow the crisis?

2. In your book you focus on promoting homeownership as a strategy that federal and local governments has always seen as main priority, essential to achieve the “American dream”. Do you think it’s a model that today seems even more in crisis than when you wrote the book? And do you think an urban homesteading program could still be a possible alternative way to conceive an housing strategy, at both scales: NYC and US?

3. Why urban homesteading and “sweat equity” programs did fail? What kind of policies could be affective today for achieving a federal or at least a local homesteading urban strategy?

4. A second main federal and local housing strategy, that is becoming more and more relevant, is promoting income integration. I’m really interested in that, because I think we’ll have to face that in Europe really soon. I read carefully in your book the critics to the HOPE VI program, how it reduced drastically the stock of housing for low income people and set a series of social restriction for people to grant these benefits (full time working or studying). I would really like to know more about that. Did it work somewhere? And how is it possible to show that it actually works? The risk is that the point of you of people judging this program is the one of the few that benefits of it, the one that were able and willing to integrate, but what about the many others that suffer even worse segregation conditions because of these policies? Could you tell me some examples of these kind of interventions that I can study?

5. If at beginning of a city renewal program, income integration produces interesting benefits, it happens that after a while it generates gentrification. What kind of policies, or planning devices, could be thought for having the only benefits and preventing the second phase of gentrification?

6. Do you think that mixing, in terms of income, race, class, is always a strategy that policies and urban plans should pursue? Why? I ask you this because in Europe, I think, the issue is still not so explicit as it is here.

7. I’m also interested in how smart growth and new urbanism ideology is promoting the integration issue in a wider strategy that in my opinion, it becomes a little bit dangerous in its way of stressing a specific idea of community, linked with centralities and green policies, against sprawling or different ways of conceiving communities.

8. I was really impressed by the data you provide in your book about how much NYC invest into affordable housing programs compared with the other US cities? Where does all this money go? What main policies and programs did Mr. Bloomberg promote? HOPE VI, vouchers (section 8), public housing?

9. Can we compare what happens in NY with the rest of the country in terms of housing programs, policies, and urban plan?