Build More Housing

Document Type


Publication Date



Low and mid-rise apartment buildings may be dull, may lack a revolutionary or innovative edge, but they are glorious – glorious in the way that clean air and water are glorious. We needed more of them before COVID and need them even more now. Take a stroll through my neighbourhood in Oakland, California, and nearby Bay Area cities to take in the sights. Notice the homeless encampments festering on the margins of every neighbourhood and on the edges of freeways. That is just one visible result of not having enough affordable housing for the poor to the working-classes. Witness what happens when neighbourhoods, to maintain their “character” or “culture,” inhibit the addition of more and denser housing. The results are spectacles of misery. Providing housing for citizens and residents is a moral imperative. No NIMBY whine, no aesthetic concern, cultural project, not even most environmental impacts (except those intended to protect residents from natural disasters) trumps this duty. To help meet this obligation, low and mid-rise apartments should be everywhere, not only in places where affordable housing is already stacked but also, and primarily, in locales that shelter and segregate the well-off. Build more housing, whether publicly or privately funded, including social housing, and get out of the way of its development. Prioritise housing the economically least well-off, expand the provision of housing subsidies, and fully enforce fair housing law. Let’s give material substance - as in homes fit to live in - to the values of moral dignity, liberty, and democratic equality.