Jonathan Rose, president of Jonathan Rose Cos., called for a collective vision to solve the problems of the 21st century during his keynote address in mid-November at AHF Live: The 2016 Affordable Housing Developers Summit in Chicago.

Sheri Whitko

“We are trapped for many reasons in a system of multigenerational poverty, and that is increasing,” he said. “I really believe that the United States was founded with the premise that we are the land of opportunity, and we are the land of opportunity for all,” he said. “That opportunity has not been well distributed.”

Rose cited that 20 million American families spend more than 50% of their income on housing and more than 20% of their income on transportation, which is completely unsustainable. Statistics show that when a family moves from spending 30% to 50% of their income on housing, all the other statistics—such as education, health, evictions—get worse, he said.

“I believe we as an industry need to have a collective vision that we need to give to this new administration, and that we are going to stand up to this challenge and that we as a nation for the next 20 years are going to build those 20 million missing units of housing. We are going to build a million units of housing a year and preserve as many as we can,” the veteran housing developer told the AHF Live attendees. “My sense is without us clearly articulating our goal as equal to the challenge we will never get there.”

Rose, who has been traveling the nation talking about his new book—“The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life”—published in September, said he is seeing cities and counties passing affordable housing measures and states passing tax credits.

“Everyone is doing something; we are all trying our best, but our best is insufficient for the challenge,” he said.

He called for a new methodology for integrated solutions, saying it can be difficult to include health and education, which are critical, with affordable housing because they are part of different silos on the federal, state, and local levels.

The concept of developing communities of opportunity starts with affordable housing as a safe base, he said.

Also needed for human resiliency, according to Rose, is a 2050 education vision infused into every school district, which is “not about common core, but about common survival;” more distributed health-care systems and lifelong health initiatives; more parks and open space; available local fresh foods in neighborhoods; arts and culture, which are essential for the growing of minds; access to transit and mobile needs; jobs; and spirituality.

“We are in this together,” he said. “We can see our deficiencies and create communities of opportunity.”

Rose said opportunities exist for the affordable housing industry with the new Trump administration. He pointed to areas like health, safety, and environment that need to be regulated and the many things that are overregulated that are preventing the industry from achieving what it needs to achieve. He also cited the president-elect’s trillion-dollar infrastructure investment plan as an opportunity.

“How do we get together to focus on how that can help us achieve our goals?” he said.