Marxism-promoting prof blames capitalism for rise in US homelessness

An economics professor claimed that the rise of American homelessness is the fault of capitalism in a recent radio interview.

Richard Wolff, a professor at the New School in New York City, argued during Sputnik News’ Loud and Clear podcast that for-profit systems like capitalism create a disparity between those who can gain access to housing and those who cannot. Wolff is a member of the advisory board for Rethinking Marxism, an academic journal that “seek[s] to discuss, elaborate, and/or extend Marxian theory” and is “interested in promoting Marxian approaches to social theory.” 

”It shouldn’t surprise anyone that if poor people are unable to pay high prices for homes or high rents for apartments, and then [sic] there isn’t enough profit for a private capitalist to produce those things, well, then, they don’t,” Wolff said.

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Wolff’s discussion with Loud and Clear was spurred by the recently released Annual Homelessness Assessment Report, which found that American homelessness is on the rise, particularly in highly populated, urban areas. 

The report, produced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, found that states seeing the highest increases in homelessness as a percentage from 2017-2018 included Texas, New York, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon. States with the highest decreases in homelessness during that same time period included Florida, California, Georgia, Michigan, and Alabama. 

Housing and Urban Development also found that more than half of all homeless individuals in the U.S. on any given night in January 2018 were in one of the nation’s major cities. The report defined a “major city” as having a population of 188,720 people or more. 

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The for-profit nature of the housing market creates a “bizarre situation in a modern capitalist economy like the United States,” Wolff said. “On the one hand, we have hundreds of thousands — and I would guess it’s more in the millions — of people without adequate housing, and at the same time we have huge amounts of housing that has nobody in it for all kinds of reasons.”

“It is profitable to [have] housing even if it sits empty for a while because eventually the capitalist hopes and believes that somebody will come in and make it a profitable investment over time,” Wolff surmised.

The economics professor suggested that efforts to renovate existing housing would be more productive and timely than relying on government programs to create new housing options for the homeless.

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