U. S. Housing Markets, Problems, and Policies

This course examines the operation of U.S. housing markets, the principal housing problems facing the nation, and policy approaches to address them within the existing political, regulatory and market contexts.  The course is structured around five central areas of concern for housing policy: the challenge of producing housing affordable for lower-income households generally; how best to subsidize rental housing, address homelessness, and provide protection for low- and moderate-income tenants; how to support successful homeownership for low-income households and people of color; the causes, consequences and policy responses to the high degree of residential segregation by race/ethnicity and income; and how housing policy operates at the neighborhood scale to address concerns about revitalization, gentrification, climate change, health and schools.

Each section of the course will develop a detailed understanding of the nature of the problem, how the operation of housing markets either produce or fail to address the problem, introduce the principal federal, state and local policy approaches available to address the problem, and wrestle with critical policy questions that arise in choosing how best to craft a response to the problem.

The goal of the course is to build both a foundation of knowledge and a critical perspective needed to diagnose the genesis of the nation’s housing problems, to identify the potential policy levers for addressing these failures, and to assess the relative merits of alternative approaches. Class sessions will be largely a lecture format but will include ample time for class discussion. Each section of the course will include several guests to provide a range of perspectives on the topics covered, including those from the public and nonprofit sectors, researchers, developers, and the communities served.

Students will be expected to come to classes prepared to be fully engaged participants in the discussions. Over the course of the semester, students will be required to prepare periodic reviews of assigned readings and prepare questions for guests which will be shared on Canvas. The principal assignments for the class will be a mid-term paper analyzing a housing challenge in a jurisdiction of the student’s choosing and a final paper assessing policy options for addressing the challenge and proposing a course of action. The course is intended for graduate students with an interest in US housing policy, although no previous background in housing policy or disciplinary training is required.

This course is jointly listed with HKS as SUP 670.