Thirty-eight dollars a day.

That’s the driving force of the lead character in Sean Baker’s recent indie masterpiece The Florida Project. It’s the price of a night’s stay at The Magic Castle, a modest motel in the commercial drag on the outskirts of Disney World, and every choice that Halley (Bria Vinaite) makes is about getting that $38 for one more day.

Halley begins in an improvised collective of sorts. She takes on babysitting her daughter, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), and Scooty, another motel-dwelling kid, while Scooty’s mom, Ashley, handles the food with her diner job. When that arrangement ends, Halley tries to make the money needed in increasingly desperate ways: going to a job recruiter, buying wholesale to sell at markup, stealing Disney passes to hawk on the black market, prostitution, and finally, conning free meals from nearby resorts.

But it’s the reason for Halley and Ashley’s falling out that becomes not only the film’s pivot, but a scathing social commentary on the man-made problem of homelessness.

The children, spending their summer days rambunctiously roaming motels and gaudy eateries on Route 192, come across a nearby housing development that’s been abandoned. And, as unsupervised kids will do, they smash mirrors, tip over dressers, just generally cause a ruckus. One starts a small fire that blossoms enough for a full firefighting operation. The burning, empty development becomes a gawking focal point for Halley, Moonee and the other pay-by-the-week motel residents. Realizing that Scooty had a role in the fire, Ashley finds another babysitter, and cuts off contact with Halley.

In San Francisco, there is an estimated homeless population nearing 7,000 while, according to a study conducted in 2014, there are nearly 30,000 vacant units.

The point of the scene isn’t the fire, or the gawking, or wayward kids. It’s the geographical proximity between the $38-a-night rooms for those who can barely scrape by, and the nearby vacancies left neglected. This disconnect between need and supply is at the heart of the film, as well as the current housing crisis in the United States.

Often, the problems of homelessness and gentrification are seen as these massive, almost spiritual, issues. They’re simply too enormous for any of us to grasp, along similar lines to lust, greed or quantum physics. But it’s actually quite simple. The reason that people live on the streets while plenty of unused homes sit nearby, or that longtime residents are forced out of their communities as an influx of rich, predominantly white folks move in, is based on the difference between exchange value and use value. These conflicting ways of viewing a commodity—in this case, housing—leads to an inherently antagonist relationship between those who own land, and those who need to live on it.

In the relationship between landlord and tenant, the landlord sees housing through its exchange value—that is, something to exchange on the market for profit, a source of income. Meanwhile, the tenant views the same thing through its use value—that is, something to use, a fundamental necessity for survival. After all, “shelter” comes right after “food” and “clothing” on the list of basic needs. In his pivotal 1972 essay “Revolutionary and Counter Revolutionary Theory in Geography and the Problem of Ghetto Formation,” anthropologist David Harvey detailed why these different views are a problem:

“[I]n a private market system for land and housing, the value of the housing is not always measured in terms of its use as shelter and residence, but in terms of the amount received in market exchange, which may be affected by external factors such as speculation.”

Twenty-five years later, that “external speculation” came to a head and led to the 2008 financial crisis where 861,664 families lost their homes.

On the micro-level, the conflict manifests in shitty landlords, ranging from neglectful slumlords who barely invest in their properties, to serial evictors who utilize every tactic to rid themselves of any below-market paying tenants. On the macro-level, it means neighborhoods left to rot, gentrification when money pours back in, and increased homelessness in the richest cities in the country.

The stat that highlights this last part the best—as well as brings us back to the problem of the smoldering housing development in The Florida Project—is the number of homeless versus the number of vacancies. In San Francisco, there is an estimated homeless population nearing 7,000 while, according to a study conducted in 2014, there are nearly 30,000 vacant units. Expand the scope to the U.S. overall, and there are an estimated 554,000 homeless people, compared to 1.6 million vacant housing units. There’s more than enough houses around for everyone, and there always will be, as long as the differences between use value and exchange value continue to butt heads without enough valves—say, expansive public housing projects to add stock, or widespread rent controls to minimize a landlord’s grasp on power—to blow off steam.

Can this ever be overcome in America? Anything’s possible, particularly during a time when the nation’s most popular politician is a socialist. But it’ll be a tough proposition when the stereotypical definition of the American dream consists of home ownership. It’s fitting, then, that The Florida Project concludes with an image of probably the most ubiquitous—and insidious—pieces of “dream home” propaganda ever constructed: Disney World’s Cinderella Castle.