Social Housing in America

social housing banner

Over the past few years, a movement has emerged which asks us to rethink the role of government in American housing. Activists, legislators and policy wonks are pushing for "social housing", a set of ideas that have two main things in common. Social Housing generally includes a stronger role for the government in housing, especially in housing development. Social housing also draws from inspiration from around the world to reimagine how and for whom we build housing.

Social Housing has different definitions, draws on different traditions in housing, and brings together a diverse set of thinkers and organizers. As part of our effort to build public understanding of complex planning & development issues like housing, The Institute for Metropolitan Studies partnered with the Human Rights Institute to present a series of educational conversations about Social Housing. 

A living archive

Below you will find the recordings of those conversations, alongside a detailed archive to help you do your own research about Social Housing, where it comes from and what it means to different communities. Some of the links are to academic analyses and books by scholars. The majority of documents and links are primary source documents - legislation, newspaper articles, or reports and websites from other organizations. These represent the opinions and research of the people that wrote them, a way for students and researchers to understand what advocates are advocating for, or what they mean when they say social housing. Inclusion in this list does not constitute an endorsement of the ideas, research methodologies or platforms by the IMS or any of our partners.

Social Housing and California: A Conversation with Assemblymember Alex Lee. Air date: Monday April 25. Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San José) explained his journey to co-authoring AB2053: The Social Housing Act of 2022, in conversation with IMS Visiting Scholar Dr. Alex Schafran

California Resources:

Social Housing and America: A Conversation with Shanti Singh (Tenants Together / San Francisco Housing Stability Fund Oversight Board), and Daniel Aldana Cohen (Climate + Community Project / UC Berkeley). Air Date: Tuesday, April 26. Two leading voices for social housing explore what social housing means to the housing movement, how it can be part of a Green New Deal, and what it means on the ground in San Francisco, New York City and and across the country.

US Book list: Understanding the push for social housing in the United States requires a good foundation in US housing history.  These books will help you understand the development of the American Housing system.

  • Radford, Gail. "Modern housing for America." Modern Housing for America. University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Rosen, Eva. "The Voucher Promise." The Voucher Promise. Princeton University Press, 2020.
  • Austen, Ben. High-risers: Cabrini-green and the fate of American public housing. HarperCollins, 2018.
  • Bloom, Nicholas Dagen. "Public Housing That Worked." Public Housing That Worked. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.
  • Bloom, Nicholas Dagen, and Matthew Gordon Lasner, eds. Affordable housing in New York: The people, places, and policies that transformed a city. Princeton University Press, 2016.
  • Schwartz, Alex F. Housing policy in the United States. Routledge, 2021.
  • Tighe, Rosie, and Elizabeth Mueller. The affordable housing reader. Routledge, 2013.
  • Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. Race for profit: How banks and the real estate industry undermined black homeownership. UNC Press Books, 2019.
  • Jenkins, Destin. "The Bonds of Inequality." The Bonds of Inequality. University of Chicago Press, 2021.
  • Desmond, Matthew. Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. Crown, 2016.
  • Bratt, Rachel G., Michael E. Stone, and Chester W. Hartman, eds. A right to housing: Foundation for a new social agenda. Temple University Press, 2006.
  • Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of the Urban Crisis. Princeton University Press, 2014.
  • Hays, R. Allen. The federal government and urban housing. SUNY Press, 1995.

US Resources:

Social Housing in Context: A Conversation with Karen Chapple (Urban Displacement Project / Univ. of Toronto), Prentiss Dantzler (Univ. of Toronto) and Alejandra Reyes (UC Irvine). Air Date: Friday, April 29. Leading experts on the history and current contexts of affordable housing, public housing, and social housing strategies joined in conversation with IMS director Gordon Douglas about what lessons we can bring to considering social housing in the Bay Area and beyond.

International Resouces: