Assessing and Curing Poverty and Housing in Rhode Island

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Here’s another article in today’s Providence Journal that proves nothing so convincingly as the reality of profound differences of perspective.  File this one under “advocacy for $50 million in new debt for affordable housing.”

Rhode Island Housing brought down from Boston Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, who wants us to know that “America is the richest country with the most poverty in the world.”  That accusation contains a number of grammatical loopholes that would merit a closer look, but suffice for the moment to consider Robert Rector’s “15 Facts About US Poverty the Government Hides,” such as “the average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and has more living space than the average nonpoor person in France, Germany, or England” and “eighty-five percent of poor households have air conditioning.”

But let’s accept Desmond’s premise that poverty and housing are a dire problem in the United States.  Stating that as a fact does not mean progressives’ preferred solutions are the obvious answer.  Consider:

Desmond noted that while many discussions of low-income housing center on publicly-assisted housing, only 1 in 4 households eligible for housing assistance actually get it, so most poor families are dealing with the private housing market. In Washington, D.C., for instance, there is a 20-year waiting list for public housing, he said. …

“We have the money,” to help struggling families, Desmond said, adding that the housing crisis is a much worse problem today than it was a decade ago. About 40 people are evicted in Milwaukee every day, he said, and most evicted tenants are mothers with children. Many of these mothers pay so much for rent and utilities that their children often go hungry, he said. One mother Desmond met, after enduring several evictions, “was having a nervous breakdown.”

Frankly, it seems obvious to me that the compassionate advocate would suggest that, if it looks likely that you’ll have to spend two decades waiting for housing you can afford in Washington, D.C., then Washington, D.C., is not a place you should be.  Moreover, as Mike Stenhouse recently had cause to explain related to state purchasing of farmland, government interventions in real estate markets tends to have undesirable consequences.  Decreeing that more people be given money to afford housing will increase demand without increasing supply, driving up prices for everybody.  Partitioning housing such that some segment is “affordable” leaves less housing not in the system, reducing the supply and (again) drive up prices for everybody.

As for the second paragraph quoted above, let’s not fail to make the obvious observation that “mothers with children” implies “fathers of children,” and in and out of government, society should work to ensure that affording housing, utilities, and food is the responsibility of two parents working together.  Unfortunately, such talk makes progressives uncomfortable, because it raises questions about their beliefs on social issues.  And let’s be honest: they kinda want the $50 million in bonded revenue whether or not it makes them feel good about loose sex, divorce, and abortion.



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