Gimme The Rent Man!
I'd be less
Had I a decent
Place to live.
Those few blessed saints who still campaign for affordable housing
now face a terrible dilemma. National research has come out,
based on extensive focus groups, which says that the public really
doesn't want to hear any more of that devastating housing data.
That's a problem. If you have a humane bone in your body, how
can you resist shouting those dreary numbers from the housetops.
And they get drearier every month, despite the booming economy.
Homeless shelters are overflowing, and waiting lists for subsidized
units are lengthening. Many agencies, in fact, have stopped accepting
applications. How can one keep quiet?
Well, the focus groups did offer one idea. They discovered that
most folks actually enjoy hearing about "self-help"
housing. They admire people, no matter how poor, who pull themselves
up by their bootstraps. As long as a subsidized project has some
cooperative ownership to it, voters don' t seem to mind if it
includes taxpayer money too. Especially if it goes for child
care, education, drug treatment, health assistance, and what-have-you.
The Lord helps those who help themselves.
That's what makes this a tough dilemma. While there are surelyplenty
such co-op success stories to glow about, it's not easy to start
up new ones. There is little money available, and not enough
saints to get them off the ground. Yes, wonderful pilot projects
of "supportive housing" do flourish in Stamford, Hartford,
New Haven, and Windham, and co-op projects do abound. Still,
the number of ill-housed Nutmeggers keeps growing. So does the
depth of their unrecorded suffering.
The reasons for this quiet crisis are not new. They're just part
of the `90s way of life. The General Assembly has been steadily
cuffing Connecticut's housing budget for the last five years.
in fact 1998 was the first year in some time that it managed
to stay level.
The same with Congress... Washington's New World Order emphasizes
sell-reliance. The poor deserve a hand up, not a handout. Of
course for years they have received neither, so the federal portion
of our implied American housing compact has dwindled too. Money
for both public housing and Section 8 units has eroded. And soon
the problem could get still worse. Rent subsidy contracts entered
into with private owners 20 years ago, are now running out. Many
owners want those apartments back, so they can make a killing
on them in the private market. Wouldn't you?
Locally it's no better. Last year Cheshire banned single-family
houses altogether in its industrial zones. Zoners feared that
some do-good agency might come along and try to build housing
for the poor. So much for shar-ing the wealth.
But we commentators shall continue to hold our tongues about
the baleful statistics of Connecticut's bad housing. Those focus
groups say they're a turnoff. Instead let's just report that
pediatricians claim that kids stay healthier in decent housing.
Likewise, educators say they learn better. And, not surprisingly,
employers report that workers perform better when they have a
The trouble is that these costs of bad health, bad learning,
and bad working, show up in widely separated parts of our social
budget. There's no good way to measure them against the cost
of decent housing. Too bad. if that comparison were clear, where
we ought to invest our tax money would be a no-brainer.