Housing vs Neighborhoods

When I was asked some years ago to write a piece about “housing,” I declined. I have a problem with the word itself. Or more precisely, I’m troubled by discussing housing outside the context of the other elements that comprise a complete neighborhood.

Words are powerful things; they can both define the present and predict the future. The world might be a very different place today if the term “housing” had never been invented. In the old days we had houses and we had neighborhoods, but housing as a concept barely existed until quite recently. (My dictionary shows the first recorded use of the term “housing project” in 1951.)