Thomas Sowell

Much of the housing in Harlem, for example, was built back in the early 20th century for people who were affluent by the standards of the time -- and white. But housing changes hands over time and, in a free market, the poor end up housed in places that used to house more upscale people.

It is precisely the government which has made it virtually impossible to build affordable housing in places like coastal California and other places where there are severe land use restrictions, such as "open space" laws, as well as rent control and a crushing amount of red tape -- which ought to be called green tape, because of the environmental extremists behind much of it.

Today, we have gotten used to the idea that the government will take care of the poor by putting them in housing projects. We have also gotten used to seeing videotape of public housing projects being demolished. What has not been demolished, however, are the unsubstantiated assumptions behind these disastrous social experiments.

Just mention "the projects" and people recoil at the thought of all the crime, violence, drugs, and single-parent families with multiple problems. How did this happen?

A slim new book by Howard Husock of the Kennedy School at Harvard takes on the task of demolishing the myths behind our tragically wrong-headed housing policies. Its title is "America's Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake."

Yes, that's trillion. Political mistakes are not cheap.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate