First Principles for an Effective Federal Housing Policy

27 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2010

Date Written: October 5, 2010


Federal housing policy is heavily funded and made up of a morass of programs. This article provides a taxonomy of goals for housing policy. The article first asks what the aim of housing policy is. In other words, what can a well-designed and executed housing policy achieve? The answer to this question is not at all clear-cut. Some argue that the aim of housing policy is to allow all Americans to live in safe, well-maintained and affordable housing. Others argue for a more modest aim – achieving an income transfer to low- and moderate-income families that mandates that the income transferred is consumed in increased housing. And yet others argue that the main aim is to create a nation of homeowner-citizens, a goal which hearkens back to Jefferson’s idealized “yeoman farmer” and continues through to George W. Bush’s “ownership society.”

Beginning with these possibilities, I identify and categorize various “principles” of American housing policy. This is an important exercise because 80 plus years of housing policy; hundreds of billions of dollars; and literally hundreds of different housing programs have all conspired to confuse the essential aims of American housing policy. This article seeks to clarify debates surrounding American housing policy as the Obama Administration puts its own stamp on this field.

Keywords: Housing, Housing Policy, Federal Housing Policy, Affordable Housing, Homeownership, Rental Housing

Suggested Citation

Reiss, David J., First Principles for an Effective Federal Housing Policy (October 5, 2010). Brooklyn Journal of International Law, Forthcoming; Brooklyn Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 208. Available at SSRN:

David J. Reiss (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

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