Smart Ideas: Creative Solutions for Affordable Housing

Plus: Senators should be careful what they nuke.

A playground at a New York City Housing Authority building
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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Feb. 6, 2019, 8 p.m.

Affordable housing is about more than zoning

Noah Smith, writing for Bloomberg Opinion

Solving housing affordability will require multiple angles of attack, not just zoning reform. While increasing density is a broadly popular idea, a new paper shows that in Chicago new construction did not follow regulations allowing for increased density while land values skyrocketed. So what other angles should be pursued? One idea is a land-value tax, which is “basically an increased property tax with exemptions for construction and other improvements. The idea is to force urban landowners to use it or lose it—if they don’t develop their property, they would simply be taxed for holding unproductive land.” Along with the obvious step of encouraging cities to improve their public housing, another density-friendly idea is encouraging the formation of housing co-ops “owned and managed collectively by the residents. Without a landlord to take a cut of the cost of housing, co-ops can offer tenants greater affordability, stability and sense of ownership.”

Learning patience in the Senate

Charles Sykes, writing for The Bulwark

Impatient Senate Republicans have called for ending the legislative filibuster via the nuclear option, but they should heed the lesson Democrats learned when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid “nuked the filibuster for federal judges and Cabinet positions” and subsequently lost the Senate majority and the White House; Reid's “tactical and temporary victories” later helped President Trump fill his administration and the bench with nominees who got bare majorities. Both parties “ought to be cautious about rule changes that can boomerang against them after the next election,” but for the GOP “the consequences could be catastrophic” if a united Democratic government could pass major legislation with just 51 Senate votes (or 50 and the vice president). Even pondering the idea betrays why the Founders created the Senate, “a body that was intended to cool the political passions of the moment.”

Harry Reid AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Africa strategy must consider women

Mariatu Santiago, writing for New America

National Security Adviser John Bolton’s strategy to curb extremism in Africa should acknowledge that “security in any place facing conflict requires the active participation of women and systematic ways to support their work once they’re at the table.” Women are often the first affected by extremism, as “extremist groups use women to their benefit, recruiting them as facilitators, martyrs, recruiters, and informants.” The bipartisan Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 was signed into law “to increase the prominence of women in security and peace-building.” It is time to see it in action.

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