Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed that housing should be treated “as a human right” at a town hall in the Bronx. She specified, “We have to make sure that housing is being legislated as a human right.”
For AOC, housing access comes before someone’s ability to profit.
The freshman congresswoman expanded on this:
What does that mean? What it means is that our access and our ability and our guarantee of having a home come before someone else’s privilege to earn a profit.
AOC recognizes that housing is a complicated policy issue, which is correct. Government intervention has made it that way and we should not treat this topic lightly with empty slogans. Too bad, that most politicians don’t see it that way.
AOC continued her rant against expensive housing:
Housing is one of the most complicated policy issues that we have, period. Because you have everything from City Council, from how things are zoned to state rent laws, to federal tax breaks and all of it comes together to make a picture that all too often enriches people who are already powerful and impoverishes people who are already vulnerable, and we cannot allow that to happen anymore.
Known for her patented Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez took this opportunity to shift the discussion towards environmentalism:
Twenty percent of asthma cases come from home environmental issues. We just heard about it right now. And so, when we talk about our right to a clean home, when we talk about retrofitting buildings, what we’re talking about is cleaning our air and cleaning our water, because when we talk about what housing as a right means, it doesn’t mean that you have a right to four crumbling walls and dirty floor.
AOC’s vision is quite noble. There is nothing wrong with environmentally-friendly and affordable housing per se. The question we must ask is how is it going to be provided?
Based on AOC’s political outlook, it’s likely she will turn to the state or some state-sponsored scheme to provide housing. Apart from being a clear violation of property rights, these types of proposals will create a host of unintended consequences such as housing shortages, the development of slums, and an even more constricted housing market. In the end, government solutions will neither guarantee quality or quantity in the housing sector.
The 800-pound elephant in the living room are land-use regulations is still ignored when discussing housing. Many of these restrictions curtail the construction of new housing units, thus limiting the overall housing supply. Basic economics dictates that restricted housing supply is no recipe for housing affordability. It is in states where there is more construction, which have more affordable housing markets.
New York is simply not one of those states. According to the Cato Institute’s Freedom in the 50 States Index, New York is ranked at an abysmally low 46th place. So it comes to no surprise that New York City has 5th most unaffordable housing market in the U.S, whereas major cities like Dallas and Houston are among the most affordable in America despite achieving breakneck economic growth in the last decade or so.
Ocasio-Cortez is correct in pointing out that housing costs are out of hand in many places in the U.S. However, her solutions involve more of the same government meddling in the economy that brought about this dilemma in the first place. Treating housing as a “human right” is not exactly a formula for economic prosperity.
Instead, we should consider repealing legislation and red tape in the housing sector.