Is Housing a Right or a Privilege?

Posted on Posted in Place Making

As I wandered through the virtual realm we refer to as the “internet,” I came across an article by Anil Kalhan and Elisabeth Wickeri, written on behalf of the New York Bar and entitled “Report by the Internal Human Rights Committee of the New York City Bar Association Advancing the Right to Housing in the Untied States Using International Law as a Foundation.”  Here is a link: https://www2.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/20072632-AdvancingtheRighttoHousingIHR2122016final.pdf.   Interesting, thought provoking and downright scholarly.   And after that, a good “google search” of “housing, is it a right or a privilege?” will give you the quintessential  pros and cons on the issue, enough for a full season of High School debate.  But here, our focus is on great “place making.”  Can homelessness exist in a great place?

The answer is obvious.  But do we mandate it as a right?  Is it the next Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?  Like medical care, it is all bound up in free-enterprise issues.  Shouldn’t our economic system dictate the delivery of such a good and service?  Well, we have so skewed supply and demand by government intervention which we call “zoning,” how can we complain now?  But wait a minute, let’s distinguish between “sheltering” and “housing.”  You cannot ask that the housing industry be given the burden of meeting this “right” through more zoning.  You can say that society, as a whole, has a responsibility to shelter those who are  less capable through disability or plainly just less fortunate than others.  So it is not so much a right of the individual, but a responsibility of society.  Maybe in seeing it that way we do not need to go through the trauma of Obamacare legislation and we just do what we are supposed to do:  give a helping hand.

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