Subsidized Housing – Good For the People and Good For the Neighborhoods?

The United States Housing Act of 1937 established the public housing program. Many families throughout the years to today have benefited from the availability of what is termed "safe, clean, and affordable" housing. Originally it was established as a stepping stone for families and many immigrants in addition to returning military personnel. Today subsidized public housing and Section 8 housing account for a multi-billion dollar program. Is is still effective? Good for taxpayers and low income citizens? Good for the neighborhoods?

It can be said that it might be a system of entrapment for minorities, a main source of taxpayer waste, and an unsuccessful means of "balancing out" income and racial distribution.

There are also many success stories from Public Housing. There are many who have been former PHA (Public Housing Authority) residents who moved up the ladder of society and had good family roots there. Many of HUD's (US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) programs have been ever changing tax wastes and some have been quite successful. Programs have led to job training, family counseling, homeownership, and educational benefits. In this age of rising costs, broken families, and rising crime in poor neighborhoods, paying 30% of your income for rent in safe, affordable housing has been an attractive alternative for years. You will find many who say with a smile that their days in Public Housing were remembered with dignity and pride, in spite of the crime and the lack of consistent, effective management, tenant screening, and maintenance.

Congress sets the laws governing subsidized housing as state officials govern the laws for their programs. Unfortunately, they have made the system so complex, people make a living just interpreting and keeping up with the ever changing rules. During the course of many decades, programs are unfinished as elections create political change and new governing bodies scrap their predecessors "ineffective" programs.

Recent decades have evidenced a great reduction in the number of Public Housing units. The cost of redevelopment and upkeep on the property skyrocketed. HUD expanded its Section 8 Program to use as "replacement" subsidies for many of the demolished housing. Applicants would use Section 8 Vouchers to take their subsidy to participating private Landlords anywhere in the area. The Landlords would get 30% of the tenant's income plus a subsidy based on the current area market for the apartment. This results in the discontinuance of property upkeep for HUD and assistance with post 9/11 budget reductions government-wide. Public Housing is being scrutinized even more today with a performance funding and management system that will no doubt eliminate many family and some elderly apartments. HUD appears to be focused on homeownership today with limited success.


Addressing the needs of Families:

The nation's poor neighborhoods where gangs roam, crack is sold, and unsafe broken down housing is found continue to exist and grow in many cities. Many good citizens remain there and try to improve conditions. There are many neighborhoods far worse that any Public Housing Development. Many Public Housing residents do not want to move into the neighborhoods that the Section 8 Program offers and are unwilling and unprepared for homeownership.

In short HUD is pursuing an ineffective path. Homeownership is politically correct and provides HUD with an effective marketing tool that really does not amount to a plan to assist great numbers of poor people. Attempts at "social engineering" to create mixed racial communities by offering Section 8 vouchers has had limited success. In some cases, the Housing Agency responsible to inspect the Section 8 landlord property has not followed program rules and resulting in subsidizing unsafe, and sometimes dangerous apartments.

The volumes and volumes of laws and regulations governing subsidized housing should be destroyed. A new simplified system should be initiated that includes addressing some of the main problems in housing. Congress has determined to focus on housing only by cutting non-housing services. The idea is that there is not enough funding to really address the problems of the poor who need housing. Family support, jobs, training, education, security are distant thoughts. Public housing support agencies, security forces, meaningful job programs, education, and general social support are now abandoned.

The Section 8 Program has both positive and negative results. Many neighborhoods once dominated by homeownership are now rental units for the lucrative Section 8 Program. Middle income neighborhoods with a history of ethnic and social tradition are now mixed racially with the poor and some bring their social and economic problems with them. The goal should be to raise the quality of life for minorities and all the poor so they can blend in seamlessly with existing neighbors and not "forced" economic and social integration.

In conclusion what I am proposing here is a new Public Housing Program where the original intent of providing a "stepping stone" for families is created. All areas of family life should be addressed integrating education, jobs, family support, and follow-up. End new homeownership and new Section 8 programs. Stop trying to "force" family success and mastermind social integration. Make Public Housing the showcase for the rise of the poor American family. Screen the applicants properly and create a mentor program for those who are not yet ready to be part of the new neighborhood. Fund it with the elimination of wasteful government spending, the Space Program, foreign aide, free trade agreements, and the War! The price tag is worth it. Ask some of the egotistical movie and TV stars to make their contributions in the US! Have them sponsor a Public Housing Development. It's great to help the disaster victims in Asia or build a school in Africa, and what is that all about when our little boys and girls can not even go out of the house or to school without being in fear.

Create a gradient system where the family is supported in every way and the subsidy eventually drops away. I think America needs to heal itself first. It starts with a roof over your head.

Source by Charles Priore

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