us news

Could Universal “Social Housing” Ever Take Root In America?

A lot depends on escaping the existing stigma surrounding public housing. Could Universal “Social Housing” Ever Take Root In America? Montgomery County’s Housing Opportunities Commission

Home ownership has long been considered by many to be a key factor in realizing the “American dream.” In recent years, however, limited inventory and skyrocketing costs, have resulted in an unavoidable housing crisis.

One proposed solution involves the government buying homes to rent back to Americans.

How would it work?

A number of nations around the world have pursued robust public housing programs, but in America, such provisions have generally been reserved for low-income residents. In some areas dealing with particularly acute housing shortages, however, there’s a shift toward what is being called “social housing,” which would open up government-owned residences to people regardless of their income.

Zachary Marks of the Montgomery County, Maryland, housing authority, has been a proponent of this model for years, explaining in 2022 why he believes it could be successful.

“What I like about what we’re doing is all we have effectively done is commandeered the private American real estate model,” he said. “We’re replacing the investor dudes from Wall Street, the big money from Dallas.”

Could it actually succeed?

Even Marks has acknowledged that implementing the “social housing” system would be met with some serious pushback. But while the model might not be right for every community, he has seen some encouraging response to the work thus far in his county.

There are tentative plans to fund thousands of rental units in the area with public money, but just one such building currently exists. It contains 268 apartments and has been open for less than a year.

“We’re 97% leased today and it’s just been incredibly successful and happened so fast,” Marks said.

Now officials from big cities like Chicago, New York City, and Boston are reaching out to Montgomery County to find out if the program could address their housing problems too.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee February 12th, 2024
Share this story: