July 9, 2015
With wealth moving back downtown, the Obama Administration is working on how to get poor inner city blacks to move to the suburbs. In the name of racial justice, of course.
From the NYT:
By BINYAMIN APPELBAUM, JULY 7, 2015
PLANO, Tex. — Lamesa White and her four children moved in February from the most dangerous public housing project in Dallas to a single-family home in this affluent suburb. On the day she left, one of her daughter’s old schoolmates was shot to death.
Ms. White’s escape from the Estell Village housing project — better known as The Pinks because the buildings were once painted that color — was made possible by an experiment in housing policy the federal government began in Dallas in 2011 and is now proposing to expand to most other large metropolitan areas.
Families in Dallas who qualify for housing subsidies are offered more money if they move to more expensive neighborhoods, allowing them to live in safe communities and enroll their children in schools that are otherwise beyond reach. To sharpen the prod, the government has also cut subsidies for those who do not go.
The Obama administration has taken a deep interest in the research of the Harvard economist Raj Chetty, who has shown that where children grow up shapes their prospects as an adult, and the proposed expansion of the Dallas experiment is an early instance of the ways in which Mr. Chetty’s findings are changing public policy.
No doubt some readers got tired of my deep coverage of Chetty’s research, but it’s influential and almost nobody else is taking a skeptical look at what he’s found.
Housing vouchers were created in the 1970s to help poor families and their children escape public housing, but they largely failed to improve the prospects for their recipients. Many of the 2.2 million households that are receiving them at any given moment, particularly minorities, remain clustered in low-income neighborhoods in what amount to virtual housing projects.
Julián Castro, the secretary of housing and urban development, said it was past time to try a more daring approach, one that pushes harder against age-old residential patterns of class and racial segregation. …
The government has tried before to fix the rent subsidy program. In the early 1990s, an experiment called Moving to Opportunity required some families to use their vouchers in more expensive neighborhoods. In 2000, a broader initiative raised the value of all vouchers in 49 metropolitan areas. Officials hoped the change would make it possible for families to find rental apartments in a broader range of neighborhoods. Instead, a recent study by the economists Peter Ganong of Harvard and Robert Collinson of New York University found that most families ended up paying higher rents in the same neighborhoods — and often for the same units.
“When you give somebody a voucher, it tends to be the case that they buy better-quality housing in the same neighborhood,” Mr. Ganong said. “That’s always been a disappointing fact within HUD.” He said it raised the question: “If they’re not finding better neighborhoods, why are we putting this money into housing?”
The problem, officials have concluded, is that the subsidies were much too small. In 2011, HUD started the Dallas experiment as a part of a settlement with housing activists. It has since added five smaller regions to the program.
In Dallas, the maximum subsidy for a three-bedroom apartment is now just $850 in the cheapest ZIP codes, but as much as $1,840 in the most expensive ZIP codes.
The secret to making affordable housing work is to make it more unaffordable to the people actually paying the bills.
In 33 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the subsidy for the wealthiest ZIP code would be more than twice as high as the subsidy in the poorest ZIP code. In New York, San Diego and Washington, it would be more than three times as high.
MaryAnn Russ, chief executive of the Dallas Housing Authority, the agency that administers the experiment, said the changes had provided a “tremendous benefit” to thousands of families in the Dallas area. In 2011, Dallas voucher recipients lived in 129 ZIP codes. Four years later, recipients live in 163 ZIP codes.
Also important was that the overall cost of the program did not increase.
Anyway, discussions of Section 8 vouchers need to come with discussions of explicit racial quotas to keep neighborhoods from being wiped out, the way my wife’s Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago was destroyed. In contrast, next door in Oak Park, where my father grew up years before, an illegal but effective “black a block” racial quota kept Oak Park, with its Frank Lloyd Wright architectural heritage, from being ruined.