Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This bites


The New York City Housing Authority, landlord to more than 400,000 poor New Yorkers, is facing a budget shortfall of $168 million and has proposed narrowing the gap by charging residents new fees and increasing old ones for everything from owning a dishwasher to getting a toilet unclogged.

Ultimately, this really isn't NYCHA's fault. Federal, state, and city governments have all cut their subsidies for public housing. Especially the federal government, whose Republican leadership has made it very clear it doesn't much care for cities or the poor, and especially not the two in combination. If they have a governing philosophy (which is highly debatable), it seems to be that the poor only stay that way because they aren't yet suffering enough; if we stopped giving them the meager amount we do maybe they'd get off their asses and get a job. Or maybe they'd become homeless, or yank their kids out of school five times a year as they move from one temporary solution to another, or get sick because their buildings are crumbling. Or something. Hopefully they'll just go away and we won't have any poor people anymore. Won't that be great?

I refuse to believe that it really has anything to do with deficits. The disparity in size between the urban programs that keep getting cut and the deficit is simply too great for anyone not intellectually bankrupt to claim that the one has anything meaningful to do with the other.

Apart from the incompetent, heartless bastards designing federal budgets, there's a broad societal perception that public housing is broken and there are better ways to do things, so we might as well give up on the public housing that already exists--and by extension the people who live in it. While it may be true that we should never again build public housing the way we once did, we are steadily losing affordable housing in this country even as our population grows. We lost 2 million affordable homes in the last decade nationwide, and it costs twice as much to subsidize the creation of new affordable housing as to preserve existing stock. On the whole it's a smarter bargain to keep existing public housing in decent shape.

Update: More commentary.

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