[Homestead] Urban poor non-solutions

Tvoivozhd 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


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 
housing developments.

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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