I’m not suggesting the trip I’m embarking on tomorrow will be of Biblical significance, but I hope to return from the USA on 29th June with a deeper understanding of the country and its housing. I’ll be visiting nine cities in six weeks talking to as many people as possible about the struggle for decent, affordable, secure homes in the richest nation on earth. Part of my fascination lies in the way housing symbolises America, conferring unique ideological power. One particularly articulate spokesman of American values once said:
‘You want to reinforce family values in America, encourage two-parent households, get people to stay home? Make it easy for people to own their own homes and enjoy the rewards of family life and see their work rewarded. This is a big deal. This is about more than money and sticks and boards and windows. This is about the way we live as a people and what kind of society we’re going to have.’ Bill Clinton ‘National Homeownership Day’ 1995
In the aftermath of sub-prime, I’m not sure if National Homeownership Day is still celebrated.
Ever since I was an intern for a US public housing authority (‘the projects’) in 1992, I’ve been convinced that US and UK housing policy are converging, as they are in many other respects. With typical American eloquence, one of my friends describes it as ‘the same shit in a different toilet’ and this certainly appears to be the case in Boston (see below), where I’ll be tomorrow. After that I’ll be heading to New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Atlanta, Washington DC and Philadelphia – blogging as I go.