MLS 490, Special Topics: Sustainable Development
As most of you know from the news of the past few years, the American housing market has experienced tremendous problems, and along with that market, our economy has suffered greatly. In many ways, as the housing market goes, the economy goes, since so much our economy is tied to the housing market. Given the primacy of the housing market not just to our economy, but therefore to our politics as well, it makes sense to focus on the issue of housing at any time, but perhaps particularly now. For the most part, housing decisions in the U.S. appear to be a private matter. However, the federal and local governments have long been involved in shaping policy that impacts that market in very significant ways. Zoning decisions, tax write offs, public housing decisions, financial support for housing all affect both the housing market, and the shape, size, and often the color of both neighborhoods and communities. Of course, politics help to shape the public decisions that impact both the private and the public housing markets. For if there are public (government) decisions that impact the markets, politics will always be involved, given the role that politics plays in shaping public policy. When a city, with Federal urging and financial support, decides to tear down public housing and replace that housing with more expensive housing, the decision changes the old neighborhood, and those into which the former residents of the public housing move. Some people welcome the changes, while others oppose them. Some folks gain, while others lose, and political forces attempt to influence the decisions so that they can try to determine the winners and the losers. Housing is the bell weather industry in the U.S. That is, it is perhaps the most important key to our financial well-being, and our understanding of our economic situation. We will devote the quarter to trying to understand the housing process generally, it’s impact on the well-being, shape and size of cities and suburbs, and we will pay particular attention to the relationship between housing policy and the poor.