Comparing Housing Systems: Housing Performance and Housing Policy in the United States and Britain

By Valerie Karn; Harold Wolman | Go to book overview

12
The Housing Policy Agenda in the United States

THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION'S HOUSING-POLICY AGENDA

The Reagan administration was forthright in defining what it considered to be--and not to be--a housing problem. In essence, it considered housing affordability to be an important problem, housing quality and condition a quite limited problem, and housing supply no problem at all. Thus, the President's 1984 National Urban Policy Report observed (HUD, NUPR 1984: 57): 'Previous policy aimed at increasing the supply and quality of housing. However, housing trends reveal that adequacy and availability are largely problems of the past and that affordability is now the Nation's primary housing problem.' Affordability was identified as affecting primarily first-time home-buyers, particularly the young and the low-income households. Indeed, the administration defined the housing problems of the poor almost exclusively in terms of affordability. In 1984 and again in 1988 the same opinion was stated: 'In almost all local areas affordability rather than inadequate supply is the obstacle to lower income families obtaining decent housing' (HUD NUPR 1988: 74). The administration cited high rental vacancy rates and major reductions in the amount of inadequate housing as evidence that there was no longer any widespread problem of housing availability. Though it noted that some inadequate housing still existed and that its incidence was highest amongst tenants and very low-income families, and admitted a continuing need for improvements in housing quality (HUD NUPR 1984: 50), the administration did not regard this as a severe problem, compared with affordability. In relation to public housing, again supply was not regarded as a problem; the issues needing attention were modernization and repair and improved management.

The Reagan administration did not consider the supply of housing to be insufficient and, furthermore, stated flatly that, up to 1990, 'the total projected supply is estimated to satisfy the total

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