From Los Angeles to Boston and Chicago to Miami, US cities are struggling to address the twin crises of high housing costs and household instability. In most cities, debates over the appropriate course of action have been defined by two poles: building more housing or enacting stronger tenant protections. These options are often treated as mutually exclusive, with support for one implying opposition to the other. Shane Phillips takes on this tension in The Affordable City, arguing that effectively addressing the housing crisis requires that cities support both tenant protections and housing abundance. To improve affordability, cities must build new homes that serve all people and accommodate the needs of a growing population and changing demographics. At the same time, they must also protect existing residents from harm and help them share in the benefits of investment in their communities.
Phillips explains that the solution to America's housing crisis comes down to three priorities that he calls the Three S's: Supply, Stability, and Subsidy. Supply is about having enough homes for everyone. Stability is about recognizing and upholding the dignity of housing, especially related to tenant protections and rental housing preservation. Subsidy is about ensuring that everyone enjoys the benefits of abundant housing and stable, accessible communities. Far from being in conflict, these three goals can and should be mutually reinforcing, both technically and politically.
In The Affordable City, Phillips offers 55 policy recommendations, beginning with a set of principles and general recommendations that should apply to all housing policy. These are followed by sections covering the Three S's of Supply, Stability, and Subsidy, with a moral and economic case for why each is essential and recommendations for making them work together. Phillips ends with a policy blueprint and implementation plan for each policy, including whether it should be pursued as an immediate, medium-term, or long-term priority.
To address the housing crisis, we need everyone in the fight. The Affordable City is an essential tool for professional city planners, policymakers, public officials, and advocates working to improve affordability and increase community resilience through local action.