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Economy

How Cities Are Making the Global Housing Crisis Worse

Cities are falling back into some bad housing policy habits. We’ve learned this lesson before.
The city of Medellin famously used escalators to connect hillside slums to the surrounding communities.
The city of Medellin famously used escalators to connect hillside slums to the surrounding communities.Fredy Bulles/Reuters

Nearly 900 million people around the world live in slums, lacking access to adequate water and sanitation or adequate housing. And by 2025 it is estimated that 1.6 billion people—a fifth of the world’s population—will lack access to secure, adequate, and affordable housing.

As in the U.S., the dominant approach to the global housing crisis is to build large-scale subsidized housing programs in slums relegated to the fringes of cities. But there is increasing evidence that this is having a perverse effect.