The commodification of housing has led to new levels of unaffordability for tenants all over the country. With skyrocketing rents and an explosion of homelessness, we are faced with the glaring failures of our capitalist housing system to meet people’s most basic human needs. Recognizing the inherent limitations of “affordable housing” within a profit-driven system, we need a paradigm shift around housing that can change the terms of the debate, and advance a real alternative to the speculative market. A growing housing justice movement — combined with a renewed politicization of tenants — is leading the way. From new rent control fights and surging interests in community land trusts, to proposals for a Green New Deal for Public Housing and a Homes Guarantee (even supported by recent legislation such as the Homes for All act), there have been reinvigorated calls for larger, transformative action to reclaim our homes. This is an important moment to reimagine what housing means and how it is organized in our society — with a broader reckoning of our relationship to the state, and ultimately, our democracy.
Taking on the neoliberal status quo and the deep-seated conditions of our housing system will also require new institutional forms and strategic partnerships, particularly to meet the true scope of the crisis and advance decommodified alternatives. More pointedly, this article asks: what would a model of truly affordable social housing look like that combines the scale, funding and control that the “top-down” public provision of housing seeks to provide, while still ensuring the equitable, resident control objectives of “bottom-up” grassroots participation?