Housing Subsidies – Yet Another Government Boondoggle

13 Jan

John Stossel recently wrote an essay on the perverse effects of housing subsidies that is well worth reading, but also infuriating.  Titled “A Man’s Home Is His Subsidy”, I have reprinted the first several paragraphs below.  The full essay can be found at

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/political_commentary/commentary_by_john_stossel/a_man_s_home_is_his_subsidy

Excerpt:  [Bolding is mine]

The Obama administration now proposes to spend millions more on handouts, despite ample evidence of their perverse effects.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, says, “The single most important thing HUD does is provide rental assistance to America’s most vulnerable families — and the Obama administration is proposing bold steps to meet their needs.” They always propose “bold steps.”

In this case, HUD wants to spend millions more to renew Section 8 housing vouchers that help poor people pay rent.

The Section 8 program ballooned during the ’90s to “solve” a previous government failure: crime-ridden public housing. Rent vouchers allow the feds to disperse tenants from failed projects into private residencies. There, poor people would learn good habits from middle-class people.

It was a reasonable idea. But, as always, there were unintended consequences.

“On paper, Section 8 seems like it should be successful,” says Donald Gobin, a Section 8 landlord in New Hampshire. “But unless tenants have some unusual fire in their belly, the program hinders upward mobility.”

Gobin complains that his tenants are allowed to use Section 8 subsidies for an unlimited amount of time. There is no work requirement. Recipients can become comfortably dependent on government assistance.

In Gobin’s over 30 years of renting to Section 8 tenants, he has seen only one break free of the program. Most recipients stay on Section 8 their entire lives. They use it as a permanent crutch.

Government’s rules kill the incentive to succeed.

Section 8 handouts are meant to be generous enough that tenants may afford a home defined by HUD as decent, safe and sanitary. In its wisdom, the bureaucracy has ruled that “decent, safe and sanitary” may require subsidies as high as $2,200 per month. But because of that, Section 8 tenants often get to live in (SET ITAL) nicer (END ITAL) places than those who pay their own way.

Kevin Spaulding is an MIT graduate in Boston who works long hours as an engineer, and struggles to cover his rent and student loans. Yet all around him, he says, he sees people who don’t work but live better than he does.

[End of excerpt]

Your tax dollars at work.  Makes you feel all warm and compassionate inside, doesn’t it?

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