Housing: Programs and Policies
Income support programs give people money; employment programs help them to increase their income. Both these programs operate on the demand side of the economic equation; that is, they work to put more money in people's pockets. But on what do people spend this money? The answer is that they spend a lot of it on housing, health care, and food, the basic human needs that are the subject of this and the next two chapters.
People certainly spend a growing percentage on housing. Housing costs have spiraled upward because an affluent segment of the population has cre- ated a tight market for the better housing stock. Space is also scarce in the older cities, especially in the Northeast, where a developer cannot so easily extend the city onto previously undeveloped land. Gentrification, real estate speculation, and the increased cost of new construction have also taken their toll. All these factors have intensified pressure on the market for more rea- sonably priced housing—the kind that poor people, those just out of college, and workers earning less than $25,000 a year can afford.
The withdrawal of the federal government from the housing market has reinforced these trends. Despite the existence of some subsidies for the poor, such as public housing projects and Section 8 housing vouchers, the federal government has never provided direct public assistance to more than 6 per- cent of U.S. households. Moreover, as the budget for the Department of