Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If it is indeed possible to sum up the polarizing views surrounding the public housing debates in this city, I think Mominem has taken the best stab at it...with an older post, no less.

A passage from it that resonates with personal significance:
Housing policy is serious business and needs to be discussed in the context of the effect of the housing on people, however it got that way.

Alexander von Hoffman of Harvard wrote a paper on public housing I especially thought this part was on target.
"The fundamental dilemma facing public housing was the changing character of its tenants. ... After the war, the clientèle became lower-class rural migrants ... many of whom had little experience with the city and its institutions. ... To make matters worse, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the federal public housing agency insisted that local authorities enforce income limits, expelling many stable and upwardly mobile tenants ...
"warehouse the poor" seems an apt paraphrase of "limit[ing] the program to low-income people", something included in the 1949 housing bill.

It seems that the paper in general supports the idea of mixed income developments, something advocated by every current proposal.

There has also always been a paternalistic bent in social programs designed to help the poor, often to keep them from misusing the assistance. You can see this in almost every assistance program ever conceived. The paper also mentions that "social work" receded. I think people should be "empowered" to make their own choices.

In New Orleans (and other places) we also have the history of a failed Housing Agency which mismanaged the resources it was allocated and created a grossly ineffective and expensive drain on other city resources. Public administration of housing has failed miserably here and pretty much everywhere. The repeated attempts to fix HANO all failed. It is an intractable problem and there is no known way to fix it.
This problem is much, much larger than the edifices involved. It is indicative of at least one thing: how much the bottom dollar trumps the nurturing of community these days. When there is no chance for people with aspirations to grow and change and eventually pull themselves out of their poverty and their dependent status in society, it is then that their surroundings become more of a prison that a home. A home that others can profit off of mightily.


mominem said...

This housing debate has been simmering for a long time. It flares up from time to time. The the thing I posted today was largely written last time around and before I finished it the conversation had moved on so it stayed in my Draft folder until now.

Schroeder said...

"No one ever said you couldn't get rich helping the poor," was the exclamation of a Section 8 landlord as told to me by an architect friend who was doing some contract work.

More of a prison than a home is a powerful metaphor for a system of paternalism and corruption which benefits housing advocates and politicians. If the money flows went directly to the residents for childcare, education, and assistance with downpayments and interest, we'd have homeowners with equity, not powerless clients of a corrupt state, and pawns of a viscious political ideological struggle.

saintseester said...

Love the videos, and yes that one was a little sad. But the last video was, so, not what I was expecting!