How the Government Plantations Work for Affordable Housing

Unsurprisingly, the Providence Journal reports today (with a tone of support) that “housing advocates” are backing a ballot question that would allow them to borrow and spend $50,000,000 on taxpayers’ tab (with interest bringing the bill to over $80,000,000).  Basically, they’re advocating for their own income and influence, as touched upon in this space in February.

Not only is there a multi-million-dollar industry around advocating for money and processing government payments, the advocates ultimately are giving work to private contractors to build the houses, as well.  A table accompanying the Projo article breaks down “awards” by town for a similar, $25 million bond in 2012.  Oddly, Tiverton is near the top of the list, with 128 “affordable units” at a cost of $6,340,000.

Two of them (three, if two-family houses count twice) are in a middle class neighborhood near me, nestled among lawyers, marketing executives, and financial advisors, where the houses tend to hover around $400,000… and let’s just say that the cars in the driveways of these “units” aren’t out of place on the street.  In other words, taxpaying Rhode Islanders of all incomes won’t only be paying $80,000,000 just to ensure that less-advantaged people have places to live.  They’ll be funding an advocacy industry to hire private contractors to build houses where the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ideology says they should be built: in highly desirable neighborhoods where costs are higher and where they’ll be worth much, much more than is “affordable” when the affordability restriction is removed in 30 years.

Another dimension to the scheme comes with the “company state” aspect.  From the Projo article:

A study completed for Rhode Island Housing in April found that at least 3,500 units of new housing yearly, at prices affordable to millennials and retired adults, are necessary to meet the needs of Rhode Islanders through 2025, but this is more than triple recent levels of housing production in the state. And in the private market, most new construction is priced for a high-income clientele.

The advocates are taking advantage of the difficulties faced by lower-income Rhode Islanders in order to keep their well-funded organizations in business building “affordable housing” where it is not the most affordable to do so.  That’s what’s turning our state into “Rhode Island and the Government Plantations.”  Insiders are harvesting people dependent on government in order to justify confiscating money from other people, locally and nationally.  This is becoming Rhode Island’s true core industry.  Consider:

The United Way of Rhode Island contributed $100,000 to the “Yes on 7” campaign, and housing advocates have been working to raise another $70,000 through fundraising, according to Melina Lodge of the Housing Network of Rhode Island, the state association of nonprofit community development corporations.

At the United Way’s “Housing for All” summit in March, president and CEO Anthony Maione said that United Way, Bank of America and National Grid had together pledged $150,000 to help promote more long-term affordable housing solutions. (This might include building more support in the state budget for housing, according to Lodge.) Maione added that in 2015, the United Way logged 60,000 calls from Rhode Islanders needing help with housing costs.

According to IRS filings, United Way of Rhode Island had nearly $18,000,000 in revenue in 2014.  Rhode Island’s transparency site puts state-government payments to the organization at between $750,000 and $900,000 per year, while private organizations reap an unknowable amount of tax advantage donating to the organization.  Maione made $288,862 in pay and other compensation that year, with three six-figure VPs under him.

Clearly, it’s worth $100,000 to this organization to spend a paltry $100,000 advocating for more millions invested in the government plantation, so it can help harvest the need of those 60,000 Rhode Islanders.

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