Imagining a Non-Federal Affordable Housing System
The federal government has proven they cannot be trusted to deal with the affordable housing and homeless crisis taking place throughout the USA. Public housing operating and capital funds continue to be eroded with the latest presidential budget threatening to completely kill off the capital funds program. Funds dedicated to the housing choice voucher program either stagnate or continue to be cut while homeless programs and money for building affordable housing are continually threatened. Can we really trust the federal government with all of the dysfunction taking place in DC? I often think about what might a housing system that pulls HUD and the federal government out of the picture look like?
The States and localities would need to pick up the funding. I think some type of mandatory tax structure would have to be put into place at the state, county and local level to fund the current public housing and section 8 programs as they are. This might be a combination so localities with housing stock pay more then others that do not have any at all. This would probably need to come in the form of sales taxes and income taxes at a state level, other types of taxes at a county level and property taxes at the city/village level. There is no doubt that more conservative areas of the country would not be happy but this is the commitment that would need to take place in order to fund and manage programs without the federal government being involved.
Regionalism and Streamline
For this major change to work, public housing authorities would need to do major mergers. The overhead costs of several PHAs all operating within a 20 mile radius would need to disappear. At a very basic level, the housing authorities in dense regions would need to regionalize. That means one executive director, one I.T. Director, one Finance and one Development Director. That would hold true for a Director of Public Housing and Vouchers. Getting rid of dozens of highly paid executive staff and pairing it down to the cream of the crop would be a necessary part of this transition. In less dense states, the entire housing program would need to go under the blanket of the state. All of the other PHAs would need to be shut down and staff would need to be reallocated. There would need to be a concerted effort on creating strong management structures so that property management and case management would still be handled locally. Renting out spaces in existing service or government offices would be less costly then corporate offices for every small area. All of the various housing software programs being operated would be fazed out and the new regional or state organization would pick one software system and use that.
Read Part II of this article next week-