The Boston Globe reports that Governor Patrick is proposing to replace the state’s local housing authorities with six regional housing authorities;. This is being done in response to several high-profile instances of corruption in the local authorities.
What struck me about the story was that debate/discussion on the Globe website is really not even possible anymore, because lunchpail conservatives just oppose everything. This is a plan that purports to save money and to eliminate corruption – but because it was proposed by Deval Patrick, the discussion is all about how this will allow him to give President Obama’s aunt free housing. How about we talk about the pros and cons of this in a reality-based way?
To start, local control is being removed. This could have some good effects and some bad effects, depending on your perspective. One knock on the myriad of housing authorities is that they are very provincial. The criticism I have heard is that the housing is being managed in an exclusionary way in more exclusive communities. A regional authority could break down this kind of local mentality. That is obviously good if you don’t live in an exclusive community, bad if you do.
Next point is housing development. I’m not sure how much the housing authorities get into this these days, but in the past the housing authorities were responsible for creating affordable housing. Again, the exclusivity thing kicks in – wealthier communities have much less family-oriented affordable housing, choosing to build senior housing instead (since the state guidance is only that 10% of a community’s housing stock be affordable, either by family housing or senior housing). A regional authority could break that mold too. That would obviously cause tremendous opposition from communities who want to
keep the poor people out preserve the character of their towns.
Last point is Section 8 vouchers. Housing authorities manage these vouchers, which can be used in any community, but the currently portable Section 8 vouchers are still heavily concentrated in poor, urban communities. I think that this could be due to the provinciality of the housing authorities, but also because some perverse situations may exist in the system – the voucher values are calculated at a regional rate (to allow for the vouchers to be used in more expensive suburbs) but this results in high demand for them in poor urban areas because they are priced higher than market rents. Whatever the reason, the end result is significant economic segregation.
I’m sure there are many points I have missed, so I would enjoy having a discussion with reasonable people on this – not people who think that this is a way for Deval Patrick to appoint more friends to highly paid positions.