Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Housing vouchers—in New York and across urban America—originated 30 years ago, with “Section 8” of the Nixon-era National Housing Act. The program’s rationale was straightforward: instead of placing an aid recipient in a housing project—viewed as a failed experiment because of the projects’ expense and disorder—the federal government would provide a voucher that subsidized the rent in a privately owned apartment. Conservatives have supported the voucher plan over the years chiefly because of its seeming free-market component, and because it does not impose on the government the considerable cost of building and maintaining public housing. But whatever Republican hopes, the voucher initiative operated from its inception just like any other no-strings-attached welfare program—and it continues to do so today, eight years after the nation ended the federal welfare entitlement and lifted hundreds of thousands of formerly dependent welfare mothers into lives of work and greater personal responsibility.
To begin with, the route to a housing voucher in New York, perversely, begins in that great school of dependency, the homeless shelter.
NYCHA gives families in the shelters highest priority for receiving apartment vouchers, viewing them as the neediest of the needy. As an equally perverse result, no matter how many vouchers NYCHA hands out to shelter families, the number of families entering the shelters continues to rise, rocketing to 9,200 in 2003, up from 5,192 three years earlier. A NYCHA official characterizes the process as “feeding the monster”—an increased supply of subsidized housing boosts demand and spurs thousands of New York families, almost all of them headed by single mothers, to flood the shelters so that they can move to the head of the line to get vouchers. In other words, increased subsidized housing creates more homelessness.
Recommended reading, and the article doesn't even touch on the biggest problem which is that it destroys the market for low income housing. And reduces housing supplies.