The housing issue in 2020

Where do the two presidential candidates stand on public housing?  It's always an important question to housing executives across the country, especially in a time of COVID and unemployment spikes.  Digging through the media detritus to find the answer is not easy since the media have lost much credibility of late.  The following is a factual account of the two candidates and their housing record.

No administration has been successful in fixing housing problems.  HUD's checkered past has been a mixture of good and disastrous housing policies.  Mismanaged public properties like the NYC Housing Authority leads one to ask whether tons more money alone will fix the bad polices and mismanagement.

This also raises the question of how much money would be saved for needed housing if the bad policies were eliminated and the poorly managed properties shaped up.  Unfortunately, this is impossible to quantify, which is why Democratic administrations want to throw money at housing.

The article "Public Housing Becomes the Latest Progressive Fantasy" in the November 25, 2019 issue of The Atlantic says:

And the time is right, before a public-housing boomlet gains any further traction, to make clear that American public housing hasn't just been poorly executed; it's an idea with inherent conceptual and practical flaws.

The "projects" came to be associated — rightly — with high crime rates and physical conditions as bad as or worse than the slums they replaced.

Examples of policies that industry experts agree will turn around housing is the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).  These are two modern-day housing policies that industry stakeholders agree on in both political parties.  By all accounts, both programs are a big success. 

The HUD website says this about the RAD program:

RAD allows public housing agencies to leverage public and private debt and equity in order to reinvest in the public housing stock. This is critical given the backlog of public housing capital needs — estimated at over $35 billion.

The HUD website says this about the LIHTC program:

The LIHTC program has been a significant source of new multifamily housing for a quarter century, producing more than 2 million units of affordable rental housing since 1987. In recent years, LIHTCs have provided funding for approximately one-third of all new multifamily housing units built in the United States.

Hopefully, these two programs will be the solution HUD has been looking for to stop the money hemorrhaging from the out-of-control big-city public housing monstrosities.

Throwing money at bad policies is clearly not the answer — funding good policies that are proven to work is the sane way to bring desired results: housing the indigent and infirm in stable, well managed properties. 

For example, the president continues to back efforts and has made strides with serving the homeless veterans.  According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, "the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in 2018 decreased 5.4 percent since last year."  

Secretary Carson, "We've made great strides in our efforts to end Veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure those who wore our nation's uniform have access to stable housing." 

Per the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA), improvements are in progress with the Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration.  Secretary Carson says the demonstration aims to measure the impact of housing choice upon the economic condition of low-income families.  The Demonstration is the result of bipartisan legislation. 

According to Joe Biden's website, $640 billion will be thrown at housing and paid for by raising taxes on corporations and large financial institutions. 

Secretary Carson, meanwhile, is making sure RAD, LIHTC, and Voucher Mobility programs, to name a few, are implemented, programs that PHADA agrees are bipartisan and that work to cure subsidized housing woes without spending billions on unsuccessful programs.

Image: Ted Eytan.