Re: affordable housing
From: rphilipdowds (
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2020 03:04:38 -0800 (PST)
On Jan 2, 2020, 1:53 AM -0500, Brian Bartholomew via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
[at]>, wrote:

> R Philip Dowds <rphilipdowds [at]> writes:
> > We do NOT have an "affordable housing" problem. What we have is a
> > serious income inequality problem. [...] with the progressive tax
> > structure that served America so well in the '50's and '60's, the
> > affordable housing problem would pretty much solve itself.
> I believe American prosperity in the '50's and '60's was unusual, and
> not correct to use as proof that the wealth redistribution policies of
> those times achieved their goals. I believe that prosperity was
> because soldiers had destroyed the factories of competitors, leaving
> America with the only intact heavy industry. If you want to repeat
> the '50's and '60's, first you have to repeat the '40's. I fervently
> hope that won't occur.

I’ll concede your point:  The 50s and 60s did represent a era of American 
dominance of the world economy.  Like you, I hope this will not be repeated.

While the progressive taxation of this period was a hold-over from the 
emergency conditions of WWII, it nonetheless made its own contribution to 
peacetime purposes:  A strong, well-financed public sector component 
accomplished everything from paying down the national debt (from nearly 100% of 
GDP, to about 25%), to the national “defense” Interstate system (which helped 
make Levittown viable), to the GI Bill (which helped make Levittown 
affordable).  Today, our public sector is starved for cash, and our national 
debt, according to FRED, is again exceeding 100% of GDP (are we at war?).  In 
the 60s, average CEO pay was appx 20 times greater than average employee pay; 
today, it’s more like 160 times greater.  This concentration of wealth at the 
top supports pricing out a Modigliani at nearly 500 times the price of the 
typical single family home (which is often unaffordable for the typical single 
family).  And of course, bidding up the price of “investment properties”.

So I’ll accept your point, but not concede my mine:  America is now a part of a 
world economy that militates against affordable land and affordable housing.  
Yes, cohousing communities can, should and will take this problem seriously, 
and try to search out ways to maintain diversity and compensate for a defective 
global market.  But no community should feel guilty for not solving the 
problem, or not doing more.  Unaffordable housing is just one of many bad 
consequences of inequality, and what a microscopic community of 40 households 
can really do about this is, Not much.  The problem, and the solutions, lie 
outside the neighborhood.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

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