Plato's Housing Policy: Then and Now

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Abstract
Plato put housing second only to a secure food supply in the order of business of an emerging polis [Republic 2.369d); we argue, without quibbling over rank, that adequate housing ought to have fundamental priority, with health and education, in civil societies' planning, budgets, and legislative agendas. Something made explicit in the Platonic Laws, and often reiterated by today's poor — but as often forgotten by bureaucrats— is that human wellbeing, eudaimonia, is impossible for the homeless. That is, adequate housing is valuable to human societies independently of its instrumental role in supporting the safety, health, and education of the populace. Currently, governments all too frequently end up undermining their own health and education programs as a direct result of neglecting the housing needs of the poor. Finally, we argue that governments ought now to be using the low-cost ways that already exist to provide, or to promote the provision of, better housing for their increasingly urbanized populations; further, even in those circumstances where it is necessary to subsidize housing, governments' most important role is to develop just regulatory and enforcement systems within which public- and private-sector investment can operate.
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Archival date: 2018-04-05
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