Housing as a human right is a contentious subject in a world where property rights are held as sacred as any god or ideal that has ever been worshiped. Therefore, we must begin by clarifying that guaranteeing every individual the right to secure and stable housing is not a vigorous quest to demolish all forms of private residential property. Instead, we examine the original philosophy of property rights as a cornerstone of a free society and how it has evolved into the very thing it was designed to resist, the dominion of an extremely small minority over the majority. Housing as one of the eight dignities is the recognition that without access to a stable and secure home, the individual is stuck in a cycle of survival. We embrace it as a spiritual project of systemic actualization, knowing that alleviating this burden from the individual rapidly accelerates their progress toward individual actualization.
Presently, dogmas preventing a more equitable approach to housing are rooted in the idea that housing should be a commodity to be profited from. This takes several forms, but each serves to deny the have-nots in favor of the haves. One of the most common is municipality regulations, the rules and laws set by the local community surrounding the construction and permitting of new homes. Urban migration is increasing steadily worldwide, and trends show no sign of slowing down.23 These population shifts strain communities near urban centers, who often resist accommodation and new housing development through local municipal zoning laws. In theory, municipal zoning laws are a good idea. The ability of communities to protect themselves from well-funded private interests is a vital component of a thriving society.
Today, zoning laws are weaponized against the poor and the young in order to preserve property values. The fear is that rezoning areas beyond single-family homes will devalue the existing owner’s property. However, research suggests that these fears are largely unfounded, as home prices in middle-class neighborhoods that were very close to the new development declined by only about 2.5 percent over ten years.24 There was no decrease for houses a half mile or more away from the affordable housing locations.
Despite the data, the fear remains reinforced by decades of propaganda promoting homeownership as a primary investment strategy. It is a predatory and extractive practice that does not link financial activity to the real economy. Further, it actively reinforces class and caste. Half of renters in the United States spend 30 percent of their incomes on housing, with the poorest spending more than half.25 That we would condemn an underclass to a system of housing that extracts so much of their annual wealth generation reinforces the inherent injustice and inequity of our present arrangements. Consider also how classifying housing as a commodity instead of a right strengthens the dominion of birth lottery upon the individual. The dynastic transfer of property serves to further solidify entrenched class interests and encourages new generations to deny an expansive approach toward housing development and distribution in favor of their personal financial gains. It’s a form of economic asset organization that denies our responsibility to the other, lacking alignment with the single truth and the relational universe.
In addressing the need to transition housing into a public good, we cannot ignore the history of racism embedded in our present systems of housing access. The struggle with reforming housing is that the beliefs of men long dead bind our hands. In the United States, the laws of property and contract were established in our founding documents. The founders were clear that the right to self-determination was reserved exclusively for White male landowners. The intertwining of voting rights and property ownership laid the foundation for centuries of oppression that would take root in the form of racism, economic disadvantage, and unequal application of criminal justice. Property was and is power.
In the United States, race-based zoning was declared unconstitutional in the 1917 Supreme Court case of Buchanan v. Warley.26 The response was cities relocating segregated schools to more undesirable living areas. It forced Black families to move, creating zoning segregation outside of the law’s reach. During the Great Depression, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) worked to disenfranchise Black households by creating maps classifying who was and was not at high risk for a loan default based on race.27 At the same time, the US Federal Housing Administration (FHA) cooperated with HOLC in promoting racial segregation by restricting investments in communities of color. Only 2 percent of the $120 billion in FHA loans were given to non-White families.28
America’s love of soldiers and the military wasn’t a grace extended to Black soldiers, as evidenced by the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (G.I. Bill), which offered no protections for soldiers from the frequent denial of home loans issued by banks. Compound the persistent lack of financial support and investment with an education system tied to municipality taxes and we begin to glimpse just how deep systemic racism runs. The discrimination of people of color through their access to housing is one of the most well-documented examples of generational disenfranchisement. It is also wholly incompatible with the core values we embrace in our journey toward alignment with the single truth.
The idealization of housing as a wealth-building asset encourages individuals to prioritize personal fortune over the basic needs of others. Here we identify the inherent contradiction between considering housing an investment and attempting to address the need for more affordable housing. If housing is an investment, it exists to generate capital in excess of initial inputs. Expanding housing deflates the value of existing units and is therefore resisted by owners and wealth holders. Housing can either be affordable through a consistent focus on supply increase and state regulation, or a private asset that increases its worth over time. It cannot be both within a single framework of laws governing property and contracts. In considering housing through the lens of our core values, we recognize the inequity of empowering one group to exclude another from access to stable and affordable living. We therefore are compelled to reshape it into a new type of flexible asset to meet the needs of the moment.
The central philosophical conflict with reimagining housing as a public social vertical is a contest between empathy and economics. Systemic exclusion as a form of self-determination for the few directly conflicts with the ideals of plurality and cooperation we embrace in alignment with the single truth and the relational universe. To this end, the creation of a housing DAO serves to create a permanent source of public dwellings owned and maintained by the global collective. These homes serve the dual purpose of encouraging exploration and experimentation in different communities by allowing individuals and families to be secure in their housing without the need to overleverage themselves by purchasing a home off the private market. There are a variety of schemes for how we might formally organize participation within the DAO, each of which may vary by location. The ideal organization may be different types of housing offers and formats to meet the different needs of the single individual and the family. Each unit is contracted out for a set time frame, where present occupants have the first right of refusal to renew their occupation.
There is no penalty for leaving units early, and occupants are responsible for maintenance and upkeep during their tenure. Moving to a new location is as simple as applying for another open unit, which, if managed through smart contracts, would automatically open up the existing dwelling after a specific date. We can imagine that the ideal format of these dwellings would be high-density residential with communal spaces intertwined throughout their design but may also include independent homes available only temporarily. Initially, a housing DAO might only support those who do not own private property but may expand these criteria after primary demand is satisfied. If an individual chooses to spend their life in a DAO home, the unit is brought back into public availability upon their death. There is no hereditary transfer of property, no preferential distribution within the global public housing model.
This can be managed by digitally tokenizing access to the homes, ensuring unique occupancy while adding a significant layer of protection against fraud. Without profit incentives, the calculation of rents is straightforward in relation to savings and investment, similar to the proposed tax alternatives we explored earlier. Proactive maintenance, improvement, and disaster costs are calculated to determine a base price. From there, we add a small additional fee to generate a surplus for a community wallet to expand the DAO’s efforts. This method allows access to housing well below market rates while protecting the DAO and its properties and persistently fueling a resource pool for expansion.
Further financing alternatives include partnerships with states seeking to support housing as a dignity and collecting tax monies to facilitate the development and maintenance of these projects. Additionally, the DAO will act as a membership organization as all DAOs do, offering suites of optional services to enhance member benefits and generate a surplus. To reinforce our core values of relation, equity, and awareness, we ensure that every expansion of the DAO housing units sets aside a certain number of homes for those who could not afford the rents under any circumstance. The primary objective of the global public housing DAO will be to ensure that every individual possesses access to a stable and personal dwelling space.
Initially, the global housing DAO will begin in a single place, branching outward as surpluses are generated and processes are iterated. One significant advantage of a public housing DAO is that each renter is a stakeholder, choosing to participate in a grander vision of human housing beyond making a landlord wealthy. It reinforces our core value of minimalism by providing the individual the option to never own a private dwelling and still be completely secure in their housing. We can imagine that demand for DAO houses will eventually cross a threshold that negatively impacts the prices of private dwellings, providing excellent opportunities for acquisition and integration into the DAO. Beyond just building and purchasing homes under the public ownership model, we can imagine the DAO augmenting and leading efforts for more sustainable building practices such as advanced modular homes or 3-D printing technologies. As it builds momentum and capital, the global public housing DAO would facilitate the creation of new property laws and contracts surrounding public and private housing, including unique tax classifications for private and public homes, and further encourage the public embrace of housing as a human dignity. We might also consider separate classes of public housing developments such as housing with more limited occupancy requirements and community or industry-centric developments, among others. The possibilities are only limited by our imaginations.
Housing as one of the eight dignities is one of the most direct methods of infusing foundational security into the individual. We empower ourselves and others to expansively experiment throughout life, unburdened and unafraid of losing the dignity of a secure dwelling. It also breaks the consumption dogmas programmed into us, rejecting the idea that taking on large amounts of debt within increasingly unstable economic arrangements is somehow a noble or viable path.
Housing as a human dignity frees the individual from systems where others possess the power to determine whether they can afford access to security. The landlord serves no productive value; they exist to extract and constrict supply. In combination with food, water, and health care, housing completes the secure individual. We encourage a flexible vision of housing and home, centered around individuals and groups instead of physical places. Housing as a human dignity is a fundamental component of our journey toward systemic actualization, a raising of the floor from which we all stand. It frees the majority from having to dedicate focus and energy to basic survival so they can express their divinity within the moment.