Off the Hook Ep. 6—It Could All Be So Simple from NPQ on Vimeo.

Meet Saphia, a young bell hooks fanatic trying desperately to build a good life in New York City. Constantly immersed in the latest idea she has discovered while reading hooks, Saphia is determined to figure out how to apply these liberatory ideals to her own life. But the one thing she doesn’t account for is a little surprise encouragement from the legend herself. 

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(Saphia sets up light stands, then sits down at her desk.)

SAPHIA: Hi Steve, how are you?

STEVE (off-screen): Good, how are you doing? 

SAPHIA: Very well. The idea of this episode is that it’s a bit meta, that this character is trying to figure out the answers to these problems about gentrification and housing, mostly alone, with the help of this book, Where We Stand: Class Matters. But, she—especially because her name is the same as mine, she is me, sort of—has the good fortune to know NPQ desk editors and be able to draw on the plethora of knowledge that is in the NPQ archives. What are the most exciting solutions to housing that you are seeing?

(Camera switches to Steve Dubb. Caption on video reads: Steve Dubb | Senior Editor of Economic Justice.)

STEVE: Well, I think perhaps the most important thing that’s happening is this movement toward social housing. And really the idea behind social housing—it’s pretty basic—is that housing is a right, as opposed to a commodity that’s bought and sold. What it does is undermine people’s ability to have shelter and stability in their lives. Cooperatives, or community land trusts, or different forms of community ownership of housing that take housing out of the market and make it more accessible to all, those things are important. 

And I think part of the challenge—and this is what the social housing argument’s about—is there really is a public role. Because of structural racism among other reasons, public housing got typed as housing for poor folks of color. Social housing really should be thought of as preserving the right of housing for all. Housing that people want to live in. In the United States, our attitude is, “Well, if we’re going to give people housing, we’re going to make it as bad as possible, so they’re suffering.” Some of the housing does have to be public because, let’s face it, who has resources? It’s usually the government. So, they could afford to spend more on housing. And in the late 60s early 70s, did spend more on housing.

SAPHIA: Thank you, Steve. Have a great rest of your day. Thanks so much for making the time. Bye.

STEVE: All right, you too. Thanks. Bye. 

(Saphia logs off, takes a beat. Begins to pack up the light stands. As she does, the following voiceover plays.)

SAPHIA (voiceover): One thing stuck with me after talking to Steve—this idea that housing is a right as opposed to a commodity that is bought and sold. And though that seems simple, what would it really mean to overtake this idea that buying up housing and real estate is one of the smartest monetary investments you can make, and instead imbue our culture with the belief that good quality housing truly is a right for all?

(Cut to black. Cue outro. A message reads: Thank you for watching season one . . . stay tuned for season two!)