A home for all

Housing production funds must increase.


Claire Kosewic, Editor-in-Chief

I started crying on the bus last week, but not because of myself. I was crying for Arleen, Doreen, Larraine, Lamar and everyone else in the book I was reading.

“Evicted,” by Matthew Desmond, follows eight families in Milwaukee struggling to keep roofs over their heads. It makes a very convincing case that all problems characteristically attributed to those living below the poverty line —poor nutrition and health, lack of education, high crime rates, unemployment — can be linked to insuf ficient stable housing.

On Christmas Eve in 2012, I baked cookies, tracked Santa with my 2-year-old cousin and watched “White Christmas” with my family, snuggled under blankets on the sofa. Arleen was evicted, and watched as movers tossed all her family’s belongings to the curb in the middle of a snowstorm.

The passage of the National Housing Act of 1937 made it standard that no more than 30 percent of a household’s total income should be put toward housing expenditures. One-quarter of those living below the poverty line dedicate 70 percent or more of their income to housing in 2015.

The two largest programs which exist to combat this, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the Section 8 voucher program, have major issues.

The LIHTC entices developers to build affordable housing by offering them tax credits. But there’s a very expensive problem with this program. In 1997, $4.1 billion built 70,220 affordable housing units, while in 2014, $6.8 billion built just 58,735 units, according to the NationalCouncil of State Housing Authorities.

Section 8 vouchers were designed as a “ticket out of poverty,” with which voucher holders pay 30 percent of their income towards housing costs and the local housing authority picks up the rest of the tab.

Yet many developers won’t accept Section 8 vouchers, whether for fear of the voucher holders being untrustworthy or simply the stigma of poverty with which they are associated. Most are single mothers, disproportionately African American and Hispanic.

Everyone wants to pay fewer taxes — even myself, whose miniscule annual income is generally taxed just $1. So, the next time a politician complains about taxes being too high, and too much money allocated to social services for the “good-for-nothing, lazy, non-contributing” members of society, take a moment to think about what might
help lower those taxes.

Vetting the affordable housing industry and directing a larger percentage of taxpayer dollars to housing production will lessen the amount of money needed to pay for emergency room visits, food stamps and other public benefits. Let’s treat this problem at its source, instead of trying to combat its myriad, expensive effects.