Writing in the New York Times, Columbia University sociologist, Sudhir Venkatesh argues that it is time to shutter the US Department of Housing and urban Development and replace it with a new Department of Urban Development.
How could a program aimed at curbing inequality and helping the poor end up creating new pockets of poverty? The answer lies partly in HUD’s myopic focus on gentrifying urban cores. ... In correcting HUD’s missteps, we must first separate “housing policy” from “urban development.” Today, housing policy is dictated by private markets, so why not give the Commerce and Treasury Departments oversight of a single authority that administers Federal Housing Administration financing — needed to keep homes affordable for the majority of Americans — and all of HUD’s other housing programs?
Then, the development needs of our nation’s regions — wide areas like the Northeast corridor or Southern California — could be considered anew. ... Regionalism must be embraced, even if it tests local officials who fear losing their traditional sources of government financing.
Promoting coherent regional development will also entail linking urban policy concerns like community development and social services with work like rehabbing roads and building railways ... Americans live too spread out, and economic activity is no longer limited to downtowns. Community-based initiatives — from vocational programs to rezoning efforts to designing effective transportation corridors and recreational space — are sorely needed but will be effective only if they tie into a broader vision that anticipates growth on a large scale.
He's absolutely right.
UPDATE: Arnold Kling says not so fast:
Venkatesh then proceeds, rather naively in my view, to call for replacing the Department of Housing and Urban Development with a better department. First of all, failure only leads to exit in markets, not in government. Second, who is to say that the next generation of programs will not also be captured by special interests?