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Housing Perspectives

Research, trends, and perspective from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

Bridge to Recovery: Senator Mel Martinez Frames a Vision for Housing

October in Cambridge means the Head of the Charles, fall foliage, students settling in, and the Joint Center’s annual John T. Dunlop Lecture.

Last week at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, former U.S. Senator and HUD Secretary Mel Martinezdelivered an address entitled America’s Housing Policy: Charting a Course for Recovery.  In an auditorium filled with students and faculty, members of the Joint Center’s Policy Advisory Board, and the general public, Senator Martinez outlined why bipartisanship and bridging ideological differences will be the critical components of any policy agenda that seeks recovery, both for the U.S. economy in general and housing markets in particular.  Speaking from his current perspective as Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission and Chairman of the Southeast and Latin America at JPMorgan Chase, Senator Martinez called on federal policymakers to make housing and reform of the nation’s housing finance system a central priority, regardless of the outcome of the November election.  He set out a broad vision of housing at the center of national economic policy discussions and offered recommendations for addressing four of the deepest challenges affecting homeowners, renters, lenders, and communities: homeownership and access to credit, foreclosure mitigation, overhauling the housing finance system, and the future of multifamily and rental housing.

That the path to recovery is truly a bridge is a welcome theme for a lecture that honors the life and work of the late Professor Dunlop.  His career as a labor economist, emeritusprofessor, dean, and advisor to every president from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to George W. Bush was characterized by his dedication to bridging the worlds of business and government, and leveraging academic research to provide knowledge that informs effective decision-making in both spheres.  As an embodiment of his legacy, the lecture delivered by Senator Martinez was a fitting tribute, evoking Professor Dunlop’s vision of bringing balance and civility to national policy discussions, and calling on both political parties to be mindful of the “shared destiny” implicit in repairing and recovering the American dream of safe and affordable housing for all.

We thank the National Housing Endowment for supporting the Dunlop Lecture.  Click the video below to watch Senator Martinez’s speech. We welcome your comments and responses.

Photo by Jared Charney