Why Public Housing Projects May Not Address Concerns about Affordability – A Maxwell Drever Outlook

For some time now, the housing crisis in the U.S. has been worrying people, especially left-leaning activists, who blame the Faircloth Amendment that does not permit the construction of public housing for the sorry state of affairs. Even though providing more housing support is likely to be a focus area for the Biden government, plenty of people think developing more public housing projects is not necessarily the right way of resolving the housing crisis in America. Some of the top reasons why it is not necessary that more public housing will solve the nation’s housing crisis:

Availability of Land and Zoning Regulations

The local zoning regulations across the majority of the cities and their suburbs do not allow the construction of structures other than detached homes for single families. In the earlier days, public housing projects were implemented only where government agencies could acquire land, typically in poverty-stricken and racially-segregated areas. The quality of housing and the neighborhood plays an important role in the general wellbeing of residents, especially on the counts of life expectancy, health, and income opportunities. Likely, the development of more public housing in places they are permitted will only increase economic and racial segregation, and the people most harmed will be the low-income families, observes Maxwell Drever.

Lack of Real Estate Development Expertise by Public Agencies

Even though the federal government makes the funds available, the various governmental agencies build and operate affordable housing properties across the country. The problem lies in the fact that these agencies do not necessarily have much expertise or experience in construction. Often they take more time and incur more expense than the private sector due to more stringent procurement and labor regulation compliance. Currently, specialized for-profit and non-profit developers build all affordable housing. Government agencies do not respond well to calls for building more housing since they neither have the willingness nor the capacity to undertake such projects.

Long-Term Commitment Needed for Quality Affordable Housing 

Public housing is not only about constructing good-quality residential units but also about proper maintenance. It requires long-term commitments of both time and money. The lack of commitment is the most important reason for public housing projects to deteriorate due to dampness, mold, infestation, as well as aging systems like elevators and plumbing. With an already substantial maintenance backlog and scarcity of funds, it is understandable why housing agencies are reluctant to build more public housing units. According to Maxwell Drever, the proposed solution of agencies selling the units to the owners at low prices only shifts the onus of maintenance to the owners but does not solve the real problem for low-income homeowners.


Building new housing is expensive. Often building subsidized housing is even more expensive than housing linked to market rates due to financing issues. There’s also the problem of time since affordable housing projects often take a decade or more to complete. It can be a good idea to allocate more funds to subsidize rentals or acquire and rehabilitate existing housing as it will allow low-income families to access stable, good-quality housing in decent neighborhoods, instead of focusing on building more public housing.

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