Rachel M. Cohen

Rachel M. Cohen is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., and a former American Prospect writing fellow.

Recent Articles

Can Private Capital Save Public Housing? (Tenants Have Their Doubts)

It could be more cost-effective to just appropriate more direct funds to the program and keep it in the public sector, but Congress is not about to do so.

Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.
August 28, 2014 Traditional public housing is out of favor and substantially out of funds. It’s bureaucratic, concentrates the very poor, and is literally crumbling due to a huge backlog of deferred maintenance. Yet despite real catastrophes—such as Chicago’s bleak, crime-ridden Robert Taylor Homes, dynamited over a decade ago—public housing provides low-rent apartments to some 2.2 million people, and much of it is reasonably well run by local authorities. For half a century, presidents, legislators and housing developers have sought alternatives, involving supposedly more efficient private market incentives. However, these alternatives, too, have been far from scandal-free. The Johnson-era Section 236 program (named for part of the housing code) gave private developers tax benefits and direct payments to build low-rent housing, underwritten by subsidized thirty-year mortgages. But then, as the mortgages started being paid off in the 1990s, many developers...

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