37 Lose job - keep house 8 May 2020

Let’s continue Tuesday’s discussion around “you lose your job, you lose your house.” Obviously, I was looking for better than that: namely, that everyone keeps an appropriate dwelling regardless of employment vagaries. That is practical stability. Housing swaps occur when the job moves too far away to commute. Otherwise, keep doing what works; stay with the house. When asked how we pay for this, I propose having all of us pay for it. Think “happy family.” After all, we are discussing neighborhoods, and neighbors appropriately help each other. In the Tuesday post, the terms “large scale” and “aggregate” indicate the cost saving when we do bulk things together. They describe the underlying insurance principle without using the word “fire.” The proposal here is assuring housing for all.

Two objections have been raised against this ideal of universal housing: enforced uniformity (infringement on freedom) and disincentivizing stewardship (facilitating laziness).

Dealing with Uniformity: A certain degree of care is needed in our happy family. Many years ago, I read that in Germany the government takes over a property if it is not being privately maintained. America enforces building codes to keep properties up to standard. It benefits neighborhoods and individuals alike when we obey health and safety standards. This does not require that our homes look alike. Code requirements are not freedom infringing forced uniformity. We can have freedom to inhabit a safe home without losing freedom to choose the home.

Dealing with Disincentive: The people I know want to carry their share and contribute to the greater good. We naturally support community. Healthy people want to work. They do not need to be threatened with dying in a lonely alley if they lack skills. Using housing (or other basic needs) as the only reason to work plays on fear and underestimates human dignity. Let us take the fear of death out of the discussion of housing supply and then extend the reasoning to the other human needs as well. We work for the greater good, not for raw animal survival.

We have described distributing housing supply, or consumption. When natural disasters destroy several houses, the consumption economy flexes to reallocate housing.

In dealing with creating the supply, or production, there is also economy of scale. When factory closings suddenly destroy several incomes, the production economy flexes to reallocate human earning power.

The above two paragraphs use macro terminology so that the required flexing will occur at the group level where it is an adjustment, not at the individual person level where it is catastrophe.

For these reasons I am proposing that we decouple housing issues from employment issues to the extent that a hole in one does not create an unnecessary hole in the other. Of course, housing supply and demand are related, but they should not be coupled at the person by person level. House insurance provides that a hole in housing supply does not drop someone out of the job market. Job insurance provides that a hole in employment does not drop someone out of the housing market. Each side (consumption and production) can flex separately on a community level to provide stability and continuity. The community is part of finding a house and also of finding a job.

There is room for growth, especially as we apply this logic to all the Human’s Needs discussed before. Keeping all people usefully occupied is more complex than keeping all the apartments occupied. However, American society has reached praiseworthy levels of basic cooperation called the social safety net. My idealized simplicity takes examples from what our community is realizing already. Here “realizing” means both “becoming aware of” and “achieving.” We have achieved so much that we are encouraged along the rest of the progress journey to freedom from want.

Photo by Dave Francis on Unsplash

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I’m dreaming again. After all, we live in the country where dreams come true. By working together, we can reduce survival anxiety. We are closer to this dream than most people think—neighborhoods, and all that. Thinking about it is an important part of getting there. Keep thinking!

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