let’s talk about LECs

While awareness around the costs of failed traditional forms of homeownership has heightened as a result of the persisting foreclosure crisis, we are alarmed by how little policy attention is being given to supporting and developing alternative models.  To address this lack, and in conjunction with the development of our research program, we are organizing a series of conversations among scholars, policy-makers, practitioners, and community group leaders in which knowledge around permanently affordable and widely accessible forms of homeownership can be shared and advanced.

For instance, one panel might address the under-explored shared equity models like Limited Equity Cooperatives (LECs) and Community Land Trusts (CLTs) that exist in the tension between the continuing demand for homeownership and the acknowledgement of the costs and risks associated with traditional forms.  This conversation is particularly timely insomuch as it coincides with the United Nations “International Year of the Cooperative,” which culminates in November of 2012 in NYC and to which we would like to contribute.   Through these discussions we specifically aim to

Foster the exchange of pertinent information and potentially the formation of productive partnerships across groups that do not typically come together.

Produce a well-rounded assessment of the pros and cons associated with alternative housing models and a website that can be a permanent source of information and ongoing communication between interested actors.

Interested in joining the discussion?  Have a suggestion for a panel?  Please comment!

a manifesto of sorts

In general, we work out of concerns regarding ill-conceived and unjust housing policy.  We want those who are responsible for housing policy to ‘get real’ about the housing situation for low-income people, and to move towards providing better, more permanent forms of support.  We consider current housing policies to be

▪   Ill-conceived because they assume housing to be a private issue, while as the foreclosure crisis should make clear, our fates (through housing but also other economic and social issues) are structurally shared.  Policy makers favor private over public investment and responsibility, claiming that “the private sector does it better” because it gets more for its money, is more productive, is more flexible, etc.  We have reason to believe this is not true historically (as Susan’s and others’ research argues) nor should it be considered an inherent truth- the potential of public programs remains to be seen.  Also, because public subsidies for low-income people are so contentious and under supported, and therefore not permanently institutionalized, the taxpayer money that is allocated to this need is under-utilized and often wasted.

▪   Unjust because they favor high-income people who have more and better options.  Not only do the meager public subsidies that exist for low-income people fall far short of what is needed, the wealthy are enjoying massive subsidies that go unmentioned (i.e. the home interest deduction).  In short, the housing market- much like education, healthcare, the job market, etc. – is not an even playing field.

We are building a research program at the GC that aims to address the above concerns by raising the visibility of housing as a public issue and by contributing to the development of more just and better-conceived alternatives.  Ideally, we will work with other research groups at the GC and elsewhere to connect housing with issues like community development, heath, the aging population, education, etc.