AFTER LEARNING THAT the United States had spent $1 trillion on the Iraq War, author Rob Simpson tried to put the enormous and hard-to-comprehend figure into perspective by looking at what else the money could have done.

For example, it could have funded 16.7 million Habitat for Humanity houses, enough for 43 million Americans, according to Simpson's book, What We Could Have Done with the Money: 50 Ways to Spend the Trillion Dollars We've Spent on Iraq.

What would $1 trillion do for the nation's homeless and affordable housing situation?

“The short answer is it could solve the problem,” Simpson tells AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE. “Period. Done.”

He says some 15 million families need assistance to pay for proper housing. About one-third of them get the help they need, but to provide the additional 10 million families with assistance like Sec. 8 vouchers, Simpson estimates it would cost a little more than $68 billion per year. “In a normal year, one without a market meltdown, we could invest the $1 trillion and expect significantly more than $68 billion in return on our investments,” he says. “So we could keep the trillion and use interest/dividends/ growth to provide enough income to help every family in America that needs it.”

According to the slim book, the money could also rebuild New Orleans or pay for college for every student currently enrolled in high school.

On a less serious note, Simpson reveals that the money could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system in gold leaf. It could also buy every person on the planet an iPod.