Housing Delivery Systems in the United States

This is a practical course that will examine how, why and where housing is produced in the United States. We will begin by looking at the nature, motivation and capacity of seven critical actors in the system – consumers, developers, lenders, infrastructure providers, regulators, subsidy suppliers and intermediaries. We will consider how they interact with each other and how they attempt to manipulate the structure of the delivery mechanism toward their own interests. Next we will study more closely the three types of actors who drive housing production in this country — for-profit, non-profit and public developers. The class will also look briefly at the history of housing production in the U.S. (including current issues), at housing finance, and at alternate housing systems at work in other parts of the world. Finally we will consider potential changes in our American approach to creating an appropriate housing stock. The goal of the class is to help students understand and be able to use the complex machinery that gives us the housing we have in this country as well as how to influence that system if they would like to alter its outcomes. This is a discussion-based class which will feature a number of outside speakers from the rich housing community in Boston. Students will write two opinion papers and grades will be based on class participation and the quality of those papers. Reading is moderate and there are no prerequisites.