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Abstract

Asset-based social welfare policy is an emerging theme in public policy that focuses on accumulation of wealth rather than on levels of household consumption. In this paper, housing policy is used to illustrate asset-based policy for the poor. Rather than increasing income-based rent subsidies, asset-based housing policy would promote homeownership. Homeownership has played a critical role in the upward mobility of immigrant groups (Bauman, 1987) and the exiting of families from public housing (Fuerst & Williams, 1983). U.S. public policy promotes homeownership for the nonpoor, and we spend quite a lot of money on it. But for the poor, we mostly promote rental subsidies rather than homeownership. The authors view current policy as fundamentally misguided, and they make recommendations for extending homeownership to the working poor and welfare poor populations. Several previous federal programs, as well as the current HOPE housing initiatives, provide a foundation upon which effective policies of homeownership for the poor can be built.

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