The Failure of Public Housing

The Abell Foundation has released a report claiming that the Baltimore Housing Authority has failed in its mission:

A scathing report from The Abell Foundation on public housing in Baltimore suggests that the city’s housing authority has “abandoned its mission to house the poor” by focusing on the demolition of properties instead of providing new housing.

The report, to be published today on The Abell Foundation’s Web site, says the number of occupied public housing units in the city has declined by 42 percent in the past 15 years – from 16,525 to 9,625. The report says the authority’s plans for new housing are “unclear.”

Predictably, the Baltimore Housing Authority is in high dudgeon.

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There is probably some truth in the report, at least from the standpoint of those who think the government should be in the flop house business. Beyond that, it is hard to argue that demolishing much of Baltimore’s public housing dystopia is a bad thing.

One thing that most can agree on is that there have been few activities at which government has shown itself as incompetent as it has in real estate management. It makes no difference whether it is leasing property for development of warehousing the indigent.

Public housing in Baltimore, and Washington, and Boston, and Atlanta, and Dallas and [fill in your city here] has been and remains a tragic monument to dogooderism run amok. Public housing, because of eligiblity requirements that discriminate against intact working families, tends to collect a critical mass of vulnerable tenants who, in turn, collect a critical mass of the shiftless and criminal.

When one looks at the way housing funds are bled white by the personnel overhead of management, maintenance, housing authority police, etc., it is small wonder that damned little is left to actually carry out a capital improvement program.

From all aspects, if the government is to be involved in housing the needs of all parties would be better served by dismantling housing authorities, shedding the staff associated with the program, selling the properties held by the government and creating a more robust program of housing vouchers.

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