If the main lessons we learn from the eviction moratorium are about how to configure a better moratorium for the next national emergency, we will have failed. We should be dedicated to building a better housing system, a system that ensures we don’t face a deportation crisis in the next pandemic – or next year. Under normal circumstances, seven evictions per minute are filed nationwide; this rate is roughly more than three times that of Spain, France, England and several other industrialized countries. The fact that the pandemic immediately sparked an eviction crisis in the United States revealed that our rental sector is deeply unsustainable.
But now we finally have a chance to take bold action on housing. After years of congressional neglect, federal lawmakers are currently considering the Build Back Better Act, which would invest $ 327 billion in affordable housing over the next decade. This money would be used to extend rental assistance to millions of families in difficulty, modernize social housing, finance the construction of rental housing, etc. It would be a long overdue investment in housing unlike any we have seen in generations.
As lawmakers debate what is included in the final bill, making deals between moderates and progressives, I hope they will remember that any comprehensive poverty reduction plan must include investments in affordable housing. . When we lower incomes to their lowest – for example, by expanding the child tax credit, a laudable program in itself – without addressing the housing crisis, those gains are often clawed back by landlords, not entirely by families.
A 2019 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that when states raised minimum wages, it initially made it easier for families to pay rent. But landlords quickly responded to wage increases by raising rents, which diluted the effect of the policy. This is already happening today, but we prefer to discuss it using the bloodless language of inflation.
When the moratorium on evictions was in place, millions of Americans could worry about something else for a change. For Ms. Higbee, it was her health. She was able to build a care team focused on her seizures. She found a lawyer to help her file a disability claim. With the moratorium covering her family, Ms Higbee was able to go to the hospital for a neurological assessment. “The moratorium saved us,” she said. “It really is.”
For my part, I am grateful that he did. But I want to live in a country where Ms. Higbee didn’t need to save in the first place. I want to live in a country that “cares more about the good condition of human beings than the good condition of property”, as Aristotle says in “Politics”.
We can collectively recognize the basic human need for housing by finally establishing it as a right in this country. We would be late for the holiday – Canada, Spain, Belgium and several other countries have already recognized housing as a right – but we could compensate by expanding housing options in creative ways.