“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” As song lyrics, those words are catchy and cause a wave of nostalgia for people who lived through the 1990s. Currently, hating parking lots is popular because of the necessary shift towards mass transit and public transportation. However, the United States is experiencing a shift that only the main populace saw coming that the upperclass echelons ignored: more people are living their cars, regardless of education. Even though people are interested in filling society with multifamily housing based on the racist origins of single family zoning, there remains a question of what to do about people who are unable to afford many of the attractive new developments and reside in the only property they might ever own.
The goal of all housing policy should be to house people. There is no doubt that because of the pervasive capitalistic thought of “market rate,” providing a home for everyone will be difficult. Because real estate companies feel entitled not only to profit but excessive profit, more people will find themselves with nowhere to go based on occupancy ordinances and a rising cost of living. Nevertheless, if people wish for large portions of general public to be “law-abiding,” it becomes incumbent among policymakers and constituents to create the environment for everyone to be able to be safely housed. There is no longer an excuse to allow private entities to dictate the cost of living. Local governments should respond to those who vote for them, not for those who fund their campaigns.
While society waits for local governments to adequately respond, there needs to be space allocated for people who living in their cars without harassment. Part of the reason that driving becomes such a deadly endeavor is because of inattention, and more frequently, unfulfilled fatigue. Unfortunately, most of the larger parking lots are owned by private corporations that pay security officers to harass people in the guise of protecting their property. Since there are already people living in their cars, local governments should use vacant parking lots as places where people could sleep. Logistically, such a policy would accomplish two goals, 1) allowing already exhausted people a place to sleep; and 2) putting more eyes in vacant lots, making it safer for people who travel at night for 24/7 businesses.
As home to several billionaires, the United States should feel ashamed that it values business prospects over an emotionally healthy populace. Until there is a collective realization that everyone deserves to be able to lock a door, the number of people living in their vehicles will continue to rise. Large private entities that bought expansive swaths of land should no longer be excused from the solution of homelessness, since they were the cause. Living in a car is not ideal, but for more people, “ideal” is not an option. As such, communities should continue to come up with more palatable solutions so that if people are making due the best way they can, they are not further punished from ignorance and fear.