by Eliza Gallo
New York is a city where real estate is a hot topic — particularly for the USC Price School of Public Policy alumni who live there, working in the public and private sectors to influence policy and shape the urban environment. These influential alums gathered on Oct. 22 to network and hear Professor Raphael Bostic, director of the Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise, discuss how housing policy, housing finance and politics affect quality of life for families in New York and beyond.
The event was the first in a new series titled, USC Price Conversations in New York.
Bostic addressed issues that USC Price graduates are contending with at both a policy level and a national level. He noted that the country’s first housing policies were New York’s 19th century Tenement Acts, which were motivated by public health fears rather than a desire to give people roofs over their heads. “The rest of our housing policy from that day forward has colorations of that in it,” Bostic explained.
“I think a lot of times what our policies are trying to do is create social order, but that social order can occur at the expense of our families,” Bostic said.
Three big challenges
He identified three problem areas that contribute to inequality and harm the family unit.
One issue is the policy surrounding housing assistance and crime, which prevents those who have been imprisoned from returning to families living in public rental housing. “Once you have a record, it’s over — you’re not going to have a job, you’re not going to have a place to live,” Bostic said. This has costs not only for the person who was incarcerated, but for the spouse and children left alone.
A second issue, Bostic explained, is how housing policy interacts with education. Low-income people who receive rental assistance move more often, which means that their children are bounced from school to school — a disruption that can cause educational delays. “They’ve now lost a grade, two grades, three grades,” Bostic said.
The third problem has to do with housing policy surrounding death. Bostic noted that rental assistance is typically granted to one family member, and if that person dies, housing authorities may not recognize a nontraditional family group – unmarried partners, or a gay or lesbian couple, for example – resulting in eviction for the remaining family members.
Pushing housing to the forefront
After his presentation, Bostic held a Q&A session with the USC Price alumni, who posed questions and suggestions for solving some of these problems. Bostic urged them to make their voices heard.
“I’m in a group that’s trying to get the presidential candidates to talk about housing, and it is rough,” he said. “As we hear our policy people, our leaders, talk about these things, let’s try to push them. Let’s get them to talk about the things that are important and can ripple throughout our social experiences.”
The reason this dialogue is crucial, Bostic said, is because housing stresses are causing people to be left behind — something the nation can’t afford. “In an increasingly global and competitive environment, this country is going to stay where it is if we leave anybody behind.”
In addition, the goal of this inaugural event was to strengthen the bonds between USC Price alumni in the area.
John Sonego, associate dean for development and external affairs at USC Price, said he was amazed by the strength of the Trojan alumni network. Price alumnus Mark Thompson ’79 agreed, noting “USC is totally unique in this country. When you see someone from USC, you have an instant connection.”