By: Nancy Salvato
Recently, two articles gave me pause. The first by Alana Semuels, “How Chicago is Trying to Integrate its Suburbs” caught my attention because I spent many formative years in Glenview, the suburb highlighted in the article. Reading about the new low income housing there, a collaboration between the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and Regional Housing Initiative (RHI), I recalled a conversation with a long term resident and respected member of the community (prior to the shut-down of the naval air base and subsequent redevelopment), one in which she explained that Glenview, a Chicago suburb, got around a previous Section 8 requirement by building low income senior housing. She had no qualms about the community’s position in this matter. Many middle class communities felt this way about Section 8 moving into their neighborhoods. In a SPOA article called The Great Housing Experiment That Failed, the author writes:
Starting back in 1977, families living in housing projects began to be relocated to middle-class suburban neighborhoods with good public schools. If these families could see a different way of life, the middle-class way of life, they could learn to live like the middle class – or so everyone thought…But then the crime rate started to go up in suburbia where they moved. As one former housing project tenant said: “You move from one place to another and you bring the element with you. You got some [people] trying to make it just like the projects.”
Landlords in more affluent suburbs did not want to rent to Section 8 tenants. Erin Eberlin writes in, “Disadvantages of Renting to Section 8 Tenants”
There is a stigma that Section 8 tenants are very destructive. There have been horror stories about floors being destroyed, cabinets being pulled off the walls, toilets being cracked, garbage and filth everywhere and many more people living in the unit than are listed on the lease… Tenants who do not collect rental assistance may be turned off by the fact that you allow Section 8 tenants in your property. They may believe that you are a “slumlord,” that the property will be dirty or that the tenants will be disrespectful and noisy.
In “Let’s End Housing Vouchers” Howard Husock provides insight into why Section 8 vouchers have failed in integrating classes of people.
Better neighborhoods are not better because of something in the water but because people have built and sustained them by their efforts, their values, and their commitments. Voucher appropriations are based not only on the mistaken belief that it is necessary to award, at public expense, a better home to all who can demonstrate “need,” but also that it is uplifting to do so, when in fact it is the effort to achieve the good home, rather than the good home in itself, that is the real engine of uplift.
What he is saying is that the effort and goal to achieve a better life for one self is a major factor in the ability to contribute to and better a community. Those residents who achieve the American dream by saving their hard earned money and purchasing and maintaining their homes in a neighborhood of their choosing understand the sacrifice involved in making that happen. They want a return on their investment. They have made a decision to become a part of something larger and want to belong.
Husock explains how the voucher program ends up segregating classes of people and “accelerate neighborhood decline.”
For properties in precariously respectable neighborhoods, the government-paid rent is more than the market rent. Reason: the Section 8 program allows voucher holders to pay up to the average rent in their entire metropolitan area, and landlords in working-class or lower-middle-class neighborhoods, where rents are below average, simply charge voucher holders exactly that average rent. Assured payment and a more-than-generous risk premium: no wonder some landlords in neighborhoods teetering on the brink of respectability gladly welcome voucher tenants over working-class families offering lower rents and so accelerate neighborhood decline. South Philadelphia state representative William Keller tells of local property owners who “couldn’t rent their place for $500, but they can get $900 from Section 8.” The result is a familiar government-subsidized racket: landlords who specialize in Section 8s—who advertise for them and know the bureaucratic rules about what it takes to get paid.
Homeowners pay more to live in affluent neighborhoods to ensure safety and opportunities for their families. Residents of these communities are expected to maintain their homes and want to participate in events sponsored by their communities. Shared values are what makes people come together as a community. Section 8 disrupts this.
In the Chicago suburb of Riverdale, here is how it went.
EMT crews respond to emergency calls to find callers, accustomed to city emergency rooms, simply saying they’re “feeling ill.” Riverdale’s Potter elementary school, once boasting a top academic reputation, now has the state’s highest student turnover. Student achievement has dropped—putting paid to the idea that shipping poor families to good schools in the suburbs will cause an education ethic to rub off. Instead, the concentration of disorganized families has undermined a once good school. School funds, says the mayor, must now be diverted to the legions of “special needs” students. Crime is up, too—”we have real legitimate gang issues now,” the mayor says—and the city has had to increase its police force by 35 percent, from 26 to 35. That’s pushing the tax rate up, which the mayor fears will discourage new home buyers, pushing the small city into a cycle of decline. A lack of local buying power—a function of the voucher program’s preference for very low-income renters—has already left storefronts abandoned on Riverdale’s main street.
It’s no wonder that higher socioeconomic neighborhoods fear Section 8. But it is not about race. As Husock points out, “Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson famously argued that class, not race, is the most powerful divide that separates Americans today.” So, why then does the current administration want to make socio-economic inequities about race?
In “Obama Collecting Personal Data for a Secret Race Data Base” Paul Sperry writes that the fed is collecting sensitive data on Americans by race… to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.”
In its justification for social and economic engineering, this administration is saying that inequities are a result of prejudice, not the values and work ethics displayed by different classes of people. Yet, social and economic engineering is a means to redistribute wealth, not integrate and diversify communities of people. Probably the biggest redistribution of wealth came during the mortgage crisis when thousands upon thousands of middle class people had to walk away from their homes, which were then repossessed by banks and re-purchased by the very rich or rented to Section 8 voucher holders, creating greater class divisions. In American Spectator’s, “The True Origin of this Economic Crisis,” this crisis came about in part because of a “1992 Boston Federal Reserve Bank study of discrimination in home mortgage lending,” which concluded,
While there was no overt discrimination in banks’ allocation of mortgage funds, loan officers gave whites preferential treatment. The methodology of the study has since been questioned, but at the time it was highly influential with regulators and members of the incoming Clinton administration; in 1993, bank regulators initiated a major effort to reform the CRA regulations.
Clearly, the Obama administration is pursuing a policy of social and economic engineering and saying it is about race.
Federally funded cities deemed overly segregated will be pressured to change their zoning laws to allow construction of more subsidized housing in affluent areas in the suburbs, and relocate inner-city minorities to those predominantly white areas. HUD’s maps, which use dots to show the racial distribution or density in residential areas, will be used to select affordable-housing sites.
In a Crain’s Chicago Business article, Why one suburban development soared, and the other staggered, Dennis Rodkin writes,
Because the Glen is a tax increment financing district, all property taxes go into the pot; after the TIF expires in 2018, tax collections will stream into the city’s general fund. Planners behind the Glen expect the previous 23 years will have generated $820 million, according to Messrs. Owen and Brady. That figure includes $250 million in land sales, $20 million in federal grants and $500 million in property and sales taxes, Mr. Owen says.
The Glen received $20 million in federal land grants. Therefore, Glenview is a federally funded city. Thus, it is susceptible to the Obama administration’s social and economic engineering plans.
It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that money has allowed federal overreach to influence local and state decisions about schools, housing, churches, and other services that fall under the states’ purview in our federalist system of government. This division of power is failing. Strongholds put in place in our Constitution to prevent centralized government are surely toppling. Our Constitutional Republic, which generates great wealth and allows for social mobility is being replaced by social and economic engineering, i.e., socialism. I am moved to wonder how this will affect voter demographics.
Copyright ©2015 Nancy Salvato
Nancy Salvato is the Director of Education and the Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan, fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our country. She is a graduate of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ National Academy for Civics and Government. She is the author of “Keeping a Republic: An Argument for Sovereignty.” She also serves as a Senior Editor for NewMediaJourna.usl and a contributing writer to BigGovernment.com and FamilySecurityMatters.org.