[Homestead] Urban poor non-solutions
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Wed Sep 22 16:31:16 EDT 2004
One thing you can certainly depend upon---that an Oval Office Idiot
makes idiotic decisions.
I've never been thrilled with Section Eight or other subsidized
housing over a long period of time---the principal effect is to
institutionalize dependency, and if tenants do not actually OWN their
pad, they have no pride of ownership, nothing to defend in the world of
private enterprise from which they are largely excluded on all fronts.
Of course, there is little psychological satisfaction in owning a
concrete tunnel drilled in a giant vertical urban termite mound,
either---that's a non-solution---spread out minimum housing with some
degree of space and esthetics to make occupants feel happy, and generate
a sense of community with local elected government.
Bush solution is to make occupants of public housing suddenly living in
lhomeless---just whart we need is a horde of poor families lliving in
packing boxes and abandoned cars.
Why wouldn't this stupid sot FIRST work out a partial self-help program
in which wannabe homeowners did their sweat-equity bit under the
tutelage of a knowledgeable building contractor---lot of fairly low-cost
doo-gooders of that ilk around to which emotional (and fair economic)
appeal can be made. Think Ex-President Carter's Habitate For Humanity.
I don't greatly admire his house designs---too damned espensive, when
REALLY low-cost alternatves exist in Third World Countries.
THEN, phase out the subsidized , damn near uninhabitable high-rise rentals
AND, Jesus Kitty Christ, do something to about creating employment,
preferably self-employment small enterprise in the moonscape ,
abandoned-factory slums---education in becoming an entrepreneur, Grameen
low-risk, low-loss loans to groups of ten or so---if the males can't
walk the walk, do it with females who can...
Is this so hard---yes, I suppose so for the Rich Village Idiot and his
Superbriber Buddies---they would just as soon see the Middle Class and
Aspiring Poor shrivel up and go away anyhow.
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
U.S. Seeks Cuts in Housing Aid to Urban Poor
*By DAVID W. CHEN*
The Bush administration has proposed reducing the value of
subsidized-housing vouchers given to poor residents in New York City
next year, with even bigger cuts planned for some urban areas in New
England. The proposal is based on a disputed new formula that averages
higher rents in big cities with those of suburban areas, which tend to
have lower costs.
The proposals could have a "significantly detrimental impact" in some
areas by forcing poor families to pay hundreds of extra dollars per
month in rent, according to United States Representative Christopher
Shays, a Connecticut Republican. That extra burden could be too much for
thousands of tenants, "potentially leaving them homeless," Mr. Shays
wrote in a recent letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The changes would affect most of the 1.9 million families who
participate in the Section 8 program, the government's primary housing
program for the poor, including 110,000 in New York City. People in the
program receive vouchers to help them rent private apartments from
landlords who agree to participate.
For a four-bedroom apartment in New York City, HUD has proposed that the
fair market rent be reduced from $1,504 a month to $1,286, a drop of
more than 14 percent. For practical purposes, that means that a tenant
must find an extra $218 to stay in that apartment, or else find
something cheaper. A voucher for a three-bedroom apartment would be cut
by 7 percent, with smaller cuts for smaller units.
In an interview last night, two top HUD officials - Michael Liu,
assistant secretary for public and Indian housing; and Cathy M.
MacFarlane, assistant secretary for public affairs - attributed the new
national numbers to fresh data from the 2000 census and a new system
that averages a city's rents with those of its surrounding suburbs.
Last month, however, the housing secretary, Alphonso Jackson, suggested
a somewhat different rationale for the need to change the Section 8
program, which he said was growing too fast and eating away at other
programs. In an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, he wrote that the
housing voucher system was broken and wedded to a fair-market-rent
formula that did not reflect current conditions. Many rental markets
around the nation have softened, he wrote, and vacancy rates in some
areas are at their highest rate in decades.
Those trends, however, are not reflected uniformly around the nation,
and particularly not in the New York area.
The new proposal, for example, concludes that fair market rents in two
fast-growing cities, Las Vegas and Houston, should increase up to 11 and
7 percent, respectively, while rents in two New England cities, Boston
and New Haven, should drop as much as 27 and 21 percent for large
apartments. And yet, the proposal also suggests that the figure in New
York should fall by almost 15 percent for big apartments, even though
local data indicate that housing prices are climbing steadily.
Fair market rents function as the statistical benchmark for many housing
programs, most prominently Section 8. As such, the dispute over the new
formula represents the latest chapter of an escalating struggle over
Section 8, which the Bush administration has declared is too expensive.
"Like hurricanes in the Atlantic, assaults on the housing voucher
program by the Bush administration have been unrelenting," wrote Sheila
Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in the
group's most recent weekly newsletter to its 5,000 members. "Any program
will break apart if battered hard and often enough. If the program can
be so destabilized that landlords, lenders and developers will give up
on it, it will much easier to cut down."
The fair market rent issue is the latest of several proposed cuts in
federal programs that would disproportionately affect New York and the
Northeast, including an overall cut to the Section 8 budget - later
restored for New York City - and a new financing system for public
The rent drop in New York also echoes the projected drop in Medicare
payments to the city's hospitals, under new national boundaries drawn up
by the White House Office of Management and Budget, and recommended for
all federal agencies. Those new boundaries would add Bergen, Passaic and
Hudson Counties, where costs are lower, to New York City, where costs
are higher, thereby lowering the city's average portion.
This being a presidential year, some housing groups have noted that many
predominantly Democratic states, including New York and Massachusetts,
fare poorly under these new proposals, while Republican states, like
Texas and Georgia, tend to benefit.
But Dennis Shea, assistant secretary for HUD's office of policy
development and research, said it was "absolutely false" that politics
colored the calculations. In fact, he said that career civil servants
prepared the fair market rents in accordance with technical
requirements, as required by law.
Yet Mr. Shea did strike a conciliatory tone in reiterating that the
proposals were just that - proposals, which were published for comment
in the Federal Register last month. He said that HUD was working closely
with the White House Office of Management and Budget to review the
proposed rents before the publication of the final rules on Oct. 1.
Noting that HUD had received more than 300 comments, Mr. Shea added:
"We're sensitive to the concerns raised by some of the communities and
some public housing officials. We're trying to come up with a solution
that is as fair as possible."
Tenants contribute 30 percent of their income to the rent, while the
federal government pays the landlord the rest, up to the level of the
fair market rent of the area.
Fair market rents are generally defined as the amount of money that
would cover the rent, plus certain utilities, on 40 percent of the
housing units in an area. Established for different bedroom sizes, they
are adjusted each year, usually with little fanfare, and tend to inch up
a couple of percentage points.
The city's Rent Guidelines Board recently approved rent increases of 6.5
percent for the next two years, after studying rising costs of city
landlords. HUD itself, in agreeing to restore almost all the money to
New York's Section 8 budget, recently concurred that rental costs in the
city had risen by 4.1 percent.
But this year, the housing department factored in data from the 2000
Census for the first time, while applying the new geographical
boundaries recommended by the Office of Management and Budget. Among
other major changes, the department also reduced the rent allocation for
larger apartments with three or four bedrooms, disproportionately
affecting larger families.
The proposed changes appear to be larger than in previous years.
According to an analysis published last week by Barbara Sard and a
colleague, Will Fischer, 99 percent of the nation's counties would be
subject to increases or decreases of more than 5 percent for apartments
with more than one bedroom, in contrast to 2 percent of the counties in
the previous year. Ms. Sard is director of housing policy for the Center
on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington research group.
Unless the proposed cuts are changed, some landlords say that they will
have little incentive to continue to participate in the Section 8
program, a program long appreciated for its reliability.
Vincent S. Castellano, a real estate broker specializing in Section 8
who owns a few apartments in Queens, says that he owns a two-bedroom
apartment in Rockaway Beach that he had been planning to rent to a
Section 8 tenant for $1,000 a month. Under the new proposals, the
Section 8 fair market rents for two-bedroom apartments, minus utilities,
would be $944; under the existing one, it would be above $1,000.
"I'm going to go without Section 8," he said. "And there are going to be
guys who pull out of the market, there are going to be fewer Section 8
apartments available, and there are going to be more people in the
There is evidence, however, that the rental market is easing up in some
parts of the country, including parts of the Northeast. While the
average rent per square foot for apartments across the country have
remained flat in the last year, they have dipped in cities like Boston
(down by 1.3 percent) and Detroit (1.2 percent), according to a recent
analysis by the National Real Estate Index, which is published by Global
Real Analytics, a research company.
Some smaller markets, at the same time, have seen housing costs rise.
In Murray County, Ky., with a population of about 33,000, Murray State
University has expanded its enrollment by 25 percent in the last six
years and the demand for new rental housing has pushed prices up. As a
result, the new proposed fair market rent for a two-bedroom of $500, an
increase of $117, is more than justified, said Don Elias, the city
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