The Housing Act of 1949 pledged a decent home for every American family. But the interpretations of what that means and who is responsible for it have varied widely as a result of wide swings in the societal, political and economic forces at play during the 65 years since the law was enacted. In his 2014 Loeb Lecture “Affordable Housing: It’s Just (A) Right,” coming up on May 9 at the GSD, Jim Stockard assesses how we are doing at keeping our 1949 promise. First there’s the question of definition–is housing a basic necessity or a commodity, an investment or a mark of status, a business, a tax base, a vehicle for community development? Stockard argues that we have enough money to insure housing security for all our citizens, but it’s a matter of political will and strategies. He says it’s time to change the questions we are asking, and possibly time to eliminate HUD. At the root is the fundamental question, “What kind of nation do we want to be?”
James Stockard is the curator of the Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The Fellowship is a program that provides a year of independent study at Harvard to mid-career practitioners whose work involves the built and natural environment. In addition, he teaches courses on the US housing delivery system and on neighborhood analysis and development at the GSD. Prior to assuming the curatorship in 1997, Mr. Stockard had a 27-year career as a consultant in the fields of affordable housing and community development. His work included assignments ranging from housing production to policy analysis and program evaluation at the local, state and national levels. He also conducted a wide range of training activities for public agencies and non-profits. He was the principal investigator for the Public Housing Operating Cost Study commissioned by the US Congress. Earlier, he served as the special master for the District of Columbia Housing Authority when it was under the supervision of Federal Judge Stephan Graae. He has contributed articles to volumes on housing policy and serves on several housing-related boards for public agencies in Cambridge and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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