The Housing System

A series of programs on pressing issues at the intersection of design, policy, and politics in housing.

Plagued with seemingly omnipresent issues of affordability, quality, and access, why do we design and build housing the ways that we do? In part, it’s because producing and tenanting housing is a fragile collection of distinct activities that are each complex in their own right and, while ultimately interconnected, often operate independently—and with conflicting interests. While not usually discussed as a system, these pieces rely on one another.

The Housing System program series will put policy, development, and design in dialogue to probe the sclerosis of the system as it exists. Our goal is to step back from the details in order to rethink our assumptions, take a critical look at where we’re headed, and offer varied perspectives on where, how, and what we’re building. From a range of disciplines and with a critical lens, we’re taking a hard look at five areas: maintenance and improvement, housing typologies, policy and regulations, methods of production, and possibilities for systemic change. We’ll examine different aspects of the ways that housing is designed, built, and used, from the micro (the minimum dwelling) to the macro (the policies that structure it all). In putting forth some under-asked questions about this system, at a time when we are so stymied in our efforts to provide decent housing for all, we’re hoping to help point our way toward making real change.