Nicholas Dagen Bloom


On his book Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century

Cover Interview of May 17, 2009


The book raises as many questions as it answers.  If New York can keep up towers, why can’t many cities do a better job maintaining low-rise public housing?  If New York can provide affordable housing on big scale, why can’t other cities and the federal government think about new subsidized housing?  We probably will need more and better subsidized housing in the future; my book offers some lesson on what worked, not just what failed.  Public Housing That Worked shows that ”smart” government can work for people and create decent social housing systems.

As we watch the collapse of the homeownership society—in part based on the idea that everyone regardless of income should own a home—I haven’t been surprised that public housing, with its negative reputation nationally, has stayed off the table as a solution to foreclosure.  Yet I remain convinced that many people who moved into subprime housing would have been better off in some form of government subsidized housing in the first place.  Instead of subsidizing these few families for billions, we let many working families buy houses they could not afford.  This policy error will now cost us trillions as we try to stem foreclosure and steady the mortgage system.  Frankly, I am not sure who will not live in some form of government subsidized housing when this crisis is finally over.

© 2009 Nicholas Dagen Bloom