More Subsidized Housing is the Last Thing Poor Neighborhoods Need

Categories: Schutze

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The Dallas Morning News owes me at least five bucks for all the business I steer their way -- and, believe me, I hate doing it -- but once again they have an op-ed piece in the paper today that's really a must-read for people who care about the city or have any involvement at all with City Hall.

It's a carefully written, closely argued plea from two guys who could be viewed as occupying opposite sides of the tracks in a typical day-to-day context. They're basically saying that subsidized housing for the poor can become a social poison and that southern Dallas needs less of it, not more.

Man, that certainly has been the evidence of my own eyes watching this stuff over the years. In fact, I'd like to see the point taken to the next level: It's time to stop demonizing the honest private-sector landlords who rent to the poor -- stop calling them slumlords, like they made slums happen -- and recognize that many of them provide a valuable service.

Maybe next year.

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Ironically, Don Hill now lives in federally subsidized housing himself.
This time around, the two men making a case are Bob Stimson, former City Council member and president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce who is ... well, you know, he's the president of a Chamber of Commerce ... and Peter Johnson, a soldier of the civil rights movement who still carries unhealed internal injuries from Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, the battle of the Edmund Pettis Bridge during the March to Montgomery.

In this essay the two men join voices to argue that concentrating government-subsidized housing in already poverty-plagued districts of the city only pours fuel on flames of despair:

Studies determined that high concentrations of restricted units correspond with low school performance, high crime rates and more. Many of the apartments are in areas that lack jobs, grocery stores, medical facilities and other necessary services. Those communities are unlikely to attract these basic necessities until there is more disposable income in the area. Hence, a cycle of poverty that is hard to escape.

What they don't say is that subsidized housing has worked a terrible curse of corruption on the city as well. Don Hill, the bright idealistic young lawyer and City Council member who is now going to die an old man in federal prison, didn't rob banks. He robbed his own constituents by taking bribes from a subsidized housing developer.

And you know what else? That developer, Brian Potashnik, started out on his own road full of idealism, according to everything I have ever been able to find out about him. I'm not letting him off entirely -- he knew what he was doing -- but it certainly seems like the process of getting City Council approval for lucrative subsidized housing deals is a school for scoundrels.

For some reason, this money is just poison -- poison for the developers, for elected officials and, most important, for communities that can't handle any more poison than they already have.

There is still a huge shoe to fall, by the way, in the complaint against City Hall by developers Craig MacKenzie and Curtis Lockey, who have told federal investigators that city officials tanked their downtown development deal because MacKenzie and Lockey dared to obey federal law on low-income housing instead of playing the city's game, which they argue has been racist, segregative and flat-out corrupt over a long period of years.

That's not going away. City Manager Mary Suhm keeps pooh-poohing it to the council, telling them Lockey and MacKenzie are just two really pissed off guys whose deal didn't work. To which, if I were a council person, I would respond, "And, Mary, why is their anger something from which I should draw comfort?"

Today's case -- the one Stimson and Johnson make in that newspaper that's not worth reading otherwise -- is that more subsidized housing crammed into southern Dallas will only work greater evil on people who have suffered enough of it already. That point alone needs to be digested.

Way down the road, we need to rethink poverty. It's not caused by the people who rent to it or sell it pots and pans. I have met some really great people who work the tough end of the street as landlords, the poor end, and they sometimes have tenants who have stayed with them for 30 years.

The really bad Dallas landlords always turn out to be some consortium of ophthalmologists from the Pacific Northwest, not the people who live here and collect their own rents.

Not all of the people who live in poverty are simply defective in some way. Some of these are people who have decided they ain't going to work on Maggie's farm no more, and, by the way, they don't want to take Maggie's healthy living classes, either.

I have to imagine I'd be on their side if I were in their shoes. Show me a bright new government apartment where I have to take healthy living classes, and I'm going to say, "Please point me toward the closest shack where I can just pay my damn rent and be left the hell alone."

Oh, I know. What about the kids? Very tough questions here, not many answers. If you look at the top of the page, it says, "Dallas Observer," not "Bible." But you knew that.

Anyway, take a gander at this piece if you get a chance. Then, please, quickly avert your eyes and click away from the page. I wouldn't want you to be exposed to the kind of stuff they have in the rest of that paper.

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87 comments
southcycle
southcycle

 Bill Fisher's project needs financing, and without HUD money it can't move forward.  Where are our local banks, and why won't they hook him up?

Eric Hilton
Eric Hilton

Jim, you've impressed me with this. The only thing scarier than privately held slums are the slums that I (we) pay for. The right answers may not exist... But writing a piece, or highlighting one that notes how very bad subsidized housing is, is important. "Oh yay subsidized housing for the poor! Now they will be less poor!" Is such a nice sentiment, except that it is just that: a sentiment. Maybe we can be friends after all. 

Oakcliffooo
Oakcliffooo

"I have met some really great people who work the tough end of the street as landlords, the poor end, and they sometimes have tenants who have stayed with them for 30 years."  Maybe I'm taken this out of content, but this is what's wrong with the nation.  30 yrs on the public dole.  Public assistance should be temporary and not a cradle to grave lifestyle. 

CindyS
CindyS

I'm still thinking about the consortium of ophthalmologists.

scottindallas
scottindallas

food stamps get unfairly slighted in the public eye.  That's a shame.  It is likely the most efficient, fraud free, most market aligned subsidy model we have.  I won't work for everything; but it sure seems a rent card would be the best way to offer "CHOICE OF SCHOOLS" to the parents, while making a short run on the JWP and Don Hill's of the world.  Let them have the option of a credit card, with $200-600/mo rent subsidy. 

I know many of you think me liberal, but I'm the only conservative on here. You want vouchers, but only for the reasonably well off. You're hypocrites. Your beliefs are rooted in nothing, but what you're told. You don't examine things for yourself. Or else, you recognize your dissonant rationales. I know I'm not one for perfunctory niceties, but you people are REAL ASSHOLES!

Jared Heath
Jared Heath

The problem with subsidized housing is it brings trouble no matter where you put it.

If you keep it in south Dallas, you get the issues mentioned above.If you move it into north Dalals, you get unacceptable crime increases for the neighbors.

The answer is the elimination of all subsidized housing entirely, and instead a housing voucher system.

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

Why should public assistance be temporary if the factors that force somebody to accept public assistance -- chronic illness, old age, disabilities, handicaps -- are not temporary? 

JimS
JimS

Wait. How is paying market rent for 30 years being "on the public dole?" I think we have misunderstood each other somewhere.

scottindallas
scottindallas

but, it's been the income tax payers who've been subsidized by the payroll tax payers--to the tune of $2.2 trillion.  If you don't want to be Greece, we need to avoid their errors--the first and foremost is failing to tax the wealthy.

Mavdog
Mavdog

I'm struggling to understand what Jim has against opthamologists? Is it his glasses? do they not let him see correctly? Was he searching for the rose colorored and they gave him those glasses that make everything grey?

observist
observist

Lasik vouchers for the poor!

MattL1
MattL1

Man, if I want to be called a "real asshole," I'll call my mother!

RTGolden
RTGolden

Unfortunately Scott, your very valid point gets lost in the self aggrandizement there at the end.  You and I often disagree, usually quite civilly. However, when your point isn't immediately lauded and magnified by others, you tend to delve into very murky waters; making grand proclamations about the character of others, and trumpeting your self-perceived glory on high.

This was one of those cases I agree with you, rent cards or vouchers make a lot of sense.

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

Scott,I was with you 100 percent until the second graph when you started insulting "many of you." I don't know if I'm one of your "many"or not, but I was pretty sure by the end of that paragraph who where the real assholery is coming from.    

rubbercow
rubbercow

You are certainly the most pompous, bombastic jackass on here.

Mavdog
Mavdog

do you have any stats showing the "crime increases for the neighbors" you mention?

scottindallas
scottindallas

 how, the voucher totally eliminates your objection.  Otherwise, you should simply argue for eugenics or poor houses.

rubbercow
rubbercow

It should not be temporary for people who have a real hardship. It should be very temporary for people who are gaming.

sqweasel
sqweasel

Perhaps Jim's problem with docs stems from a bad sandwich at Subway (owned by a consortium of doctors).

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

I suspect the lenses are not clear enough. He can't see all those conspiracies sharply.  

scottindallas
scottindallas

 what really disturbs me deeply is how charged and partisan politics are, and how there are many agreeable solutions out there, but no one ever addresses them.  Sadly, all politics and media coverage are utterly co-opted and compromised.  The only laws that pass help some lobbying interest.  There are venerable solutions, but those don't grease palms, don't serve some political display.

I'm still mad the GOP threw away the opportunity to end partial birth abortion, all to label judges as "activists."  (the Dems has signed on to the bill)  Abortion ain't my bag, either way, but it shows the craven nature of our politics. 

I present my contentious arguments to those who are both knowledgeable and ideologically opposed, they generally have to concede my point--if they aren't fully convinced.  But, generally people get their info from AM radio, as a landscaper I get to monitor the discussion there.  What I'm arguing against are the verbatim opinions of lobbyists, paid shills and the whores that host and disseminate those ideas.  Those people are either sophistic liars, or utter idiots.  That means they're either idiots, or they think their listeners are.  There is no greater foe to a rational world than sophistry, and, a democracy cannot function when it dominates the debate and discussion. 

I actually believe the fate of this nation hinges on us waking up and demanding an earnest debate,  We've charted a dire course, and we've yet to determine which way to turn.  I'm tired of the Baby Boomers, afraid to discuss this stuff, they're simply trying to run out the clock.  We're at a stage where there aren't many economists who remember the world before Reagan, the world before ideology overtook economics.

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

I'll happily concede that crown, often rewarded to me, to scott.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 how's that, by identifying a system that would totally resolve the stated objections of the article and the commenters?  No, I'm earnest, and may be humorless in the face of sophistry.  I can be a jackass too, but I'm earnest, and challenging you with fair debate; something none of your information sources share

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

Look at North Arlington crime rates (murder, car jacking, drugs, prostitution) and high school gang activity  circa 2005-2012.  I don't know about Pacific NW Opthalmologists but many of the Section 8 landlords of decaying North Arlington Apt.s and Condos are actually from the East Coast or Florida.

Boo
Boo

I guess Suhm and Killingsworth are going to be the scapegoats!!! There are far more people responsible for this debacle than just these two. Stay Tuned!!! 

Mo
Mo

You mean people like the people at City Hall, i.e. Killingsworth & Suhm? 

Mavdog
Mavdog

Blame the Doctor! Must be the fault of Obamacare!

rubbercow
rubbercow

I didn't want to point that little tidbit out; I worried it might send him over the edge.

RTGolden
RTGolden

The irony in this comment says it all.

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

Scott,You seem to think you were the only one screaming about the WMD. You seem to think that "the media's" professional economists do not understand taxes like you do. You seem acutely uncomfortable in a world where people disagree with you. You seem unwilling to read beyond a narrow little range of opinion. You seem wrapped up in your own little world, like a moth circling a light bulb. You seem either very, very young and immature.This is what comes of not reading widely. The fat man eats only those foods that make him fat. The paranoid listens only to those voices that reinforce his paranoia. The political fanatic reads only those writers that agree with him. By accident, every now and then you're right. The trouble is, you imagine you can never be wrong.  

rubbercow
rubbercow

Gosh! I feel so stupid now :)

scottindallas
scottindallas

you're reading comprehension sucks.  That actually explains a lot.  

scottindallas
scottindallas

yeah, like when I was screaming that the case for WMD in Iraq was bullshit--cause I had heard the weapon's inspectors rebuttal, which evicerated Powell's every point? 

Bill, what I've discovered is that we are heavily propagandized.  Look at Israel; Haaretz regularly reports stories that are verboten here.  Look at higher tax rates, everyone who is knowledgable enough agrees with me, often reluctantly.  I'm dismissed by others as stating the obvious, that I've alighted on economics 101.  But, the media's professional economist don't understand. 

No Bill, I know logic, reasoning, and I am one of the biggest skeptics I around.  I know sophism, and  am sensitive to when people are full of it.  We have a fawning media, that dare not contest the political, corporate or media elites.  Look at Sacha Baron Cohen, his act is a bold as White Southerners doing Blackface under Jim Crow.  Where's the courage?  Where's the consistent fair critics? 

I read LewRockwell (libertarian) GlennGreenwald, EdWallace's InsideAutomotive, CounterPunch, are among my daily reads.  My father advises city gov'ts.  Perhaps the better question is for you, what hope do you see on the horizon?  What law has been crafted in the last 15 years that was good for the people at large?  What writ has been passed that wasn't a lobbied kickback?  What reform has simplified gov't, or where has gov't relinquished a power?

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

One more thing: If you find yourself thinking that Everybody else is wrong, isn't that the time to sit down and wonder if, perhaps, it is You who are wrong?

rubbercow
rubbercow

We all get the fact that you have learned the various forms of the word "sophist".

The fact that you now refer to yourself in the plural only confirms what is obvious to all (except, apparently you).

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

Scott,I begin to see your problem and it's not the media. Nobody is ever going to show you that you're wrong.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 perhaps you soothe yourself thinking marginal alternative media are important in a democracy, but then I'd wonder how 3% of the population are gonna sway the debate.  But, from Fox to NPR the very "think tankers" and their assorted cadre of "experts" dominate the network media, from Fox to MSNBC.  The Dems don't advocate for liberal issues, and the GOP aren't interested in decreasing gov't expenditures.  You're getting delusional media if you think there's a dime's worth of difference between the parties. 

We don't all find facts that  our emotional state, some of us are contrarians.  Believe it or not, I'm eager to be embarrassed in my folly.  Show me where I'm wrong, I'm eager to find out how.  What gets me are the lies that everyone agrees to.  Where are the Dems on the fact that Higher top marginal tax rates actually encourage "job creators" to create jobs?  Where are they on the death penalty?  Why can't they explain that major healthcare is an effective utility, and hence absolutely under the purview of the gov't?  OR, that why can't the advocates for vouchers understand rent vouchers?  Why do the GOPers fail to understand the problems with big gov't projects???  Really?  How is that anything but sophistry?  I understand a difference in opinion, but I expect you to be less lazy than that.   Don't insult us. 

rubbercow
rubbercow

An excellent bit of advice. Thank you.

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

 Scott,You're not getting a varied media diet, then.The media do NOT get in line and agree. There are media on the right, the left, and the vast area in between. To read only those media one agrees with is irresponsible and dangerous to one's mental health. You end up on a blog shouting libtard" or "fascist" at some other logger, or typing in ALL CAPS, a sure sign that the mind is losing its grip.If you're not happy with what your getting from the media, cast your net more broadly. When's the last time you browsed a newsstand?Political commentaries are "rigged" in the sense that they are commentaries. That is, somebody's opinion. Folks' opinions -- even yours and mine -- tend less to follow facts than inclinations, intuitions, emotions. (Read Jonathan Haidt's excellent book "The Righteous Mind" for evidence of this.) We all cherry pick facts to fit our emotional state. The way to keep yourself on the beam is to absorb a broad spectrum of viewpoints, and of facts, constantly challenge your own assumptions.In these hyper-polarized times, that will earn you a reputation of being "middle of the road," "wishy-washy." Wear that reputation with honor. It means you are an independent thinker. The notion that either the right or the left has some lock on political wisdom, some monopoly on Truth, is so absurd that it ought to be laughed at if it were not so dangerous to a democracy. Read the comments on this blog that come from blog-barkers from an entrenched partisan position. How much wisdom do you see there?Dogma belongs in religion, not politics.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 I appreciate that, and get it.  but even Jesus got mad.  The biggest objection I have is your statement that "not all media are the same"--They damned near are.  I believed it's all a rigged debate.  These think tanks are terrible.  Somehow they all seem to get in line and agree on utter non-sense.  When the vast majority of political commentaries are so rigged, so distorted and removed from reality, we've got no hope.  I don't know if this is deliberate by the media, or just the nature of the structure of things.

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

scott,Screaming "you people are REAL ASSHOLES!" is not the best way to discharge the political atmosphere on this and other blogs nor to present an "agreeable solution" to any problem.I was actually intrigued by the idea of rent vouchers, which would seem to avoid the usual "solutions" either to scatter cheap apartment complexes --mini slums -- all over the city, or to keep enlarging the slum we already have.Your larger complaint, that extreme partisanship poisons the atmosphere for intelligent discussion, even intelligent argument, is on target. But your intemperate language -- co-opted media coverage, tiresome Baby Boomers -- adds to the very problem you complain of. (Read around a little bit, Scott. The "media"is not all one thing and Baby Boomers are all over the political map.)I'm also pretty pessimistic about the fate of this country when I read what some of the slack-jawed knuckleheads on this and other blogs bring to the discussion -- not necessarily the ones I disagree with, some of whom are pretty intelligent. But the ones whose political vocabulary doesn't stretch any further than "libtard." (To even use that term is to reveal that you're the product of six generations of inbreeding.) For some reason, Schutze's postings seem to attract a lot of these nutcases, though few of them share his views. Hell, few are even smart enough to understand his views. I guess those who care could move intelligent discussion off this blog, but where would it go, and what would be left? There are REAL ASSHOLES here and there. But it's best to let them identify themselves and to make your argument to the rest of us considerately and soberly.        

Bill Marvel
Bill Marvel

It's sure drawn attention from whatever point your were trying to make. But maybe that was your real intention.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Hell, asshole is a term of endearment.  I'm an asshole for sure.  I won't concede nor deny it.

scottindallas
scottindallas

advance the discussion, think for yourself.  ad hominem is fallacious and sophistry.  

rubbercow
rubbercow

Thank you for not disappointing!

scottindallas
scottindallas

 there are section 8 properties that are great, and others that aren't.  That is up to the management.  There is a certain captive audience that those properties 'enjoy."  It would seem ending that, and the gov't wholly owned properties would be a good start.  Again, if we're gonna help, let's give them a card like a gift card and let them live wherever they want.  There might be abuse, but likely far less than the section 8, the wholly owned gov't properties, NIMBY all is dissolved, and the market's natural incentives and competition would still do it's good work. 

Not all markets are free, but the home market is pretty good.  it would seem that a "rent card' could also be used to pay a mortgage, offering a yet another alternative, some protection from economic uncertainty.  

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

I realize that you have an entrenched belief system which defies analytic  flexibilty.  This is the reason that you are the king of the "Cargo Cultists".Among Cargo Cult cultures in the South Pacific, it is not clear if the leaders were sincere or simply running scams on the gullible population.  (How do you expect to " re-think poverty"--your words not mine-- without appropriate analysis?--even risking that your belief system may be wrong--)

JimS
JimS

Sounds like bullshit to me.

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