Years of public housing destruction in the U.S. have been justified by a faith-based principle: that private enterprise can spend public money more efficiently and effectively than governments to provide a fundamental need, if not a right, for the country’s low- and no- income citizens.
Much as the U.S. government enrolled unsuspecting servicemen without their collaboration and consent in health experiments after WWII, it has taken the same approach with public housing tenants to cure the “disease” of public housing.
Could the country have protected and kept its stock of public housing healthy by replacing the oversight of the nation (via The Department of Housing And Urban Development, or HUD), state agencies, and more local actors (housing authorities)? Almost certainly. And quite possibly a set of similar-sized public agencies could have managed public housing just as, or more efficiently, though at a price.
But the final culmination in the cure of the public housing disease has been a dependence on woefully underfunded rental assistance vouchers. This has produced what surely must be accompanied by unexpected consequences: granularization.
Instead of one housing authority renting to hundreds or thousands of tenants, every Section 8 tenant has a different landlord. With guidance from governments in short supply, Pennsylvania rules and regulations that may or may not apply to interactions between tenants and landlords are also subject to a granularized treatment from low level judges untrained in law.
Like dust in the wind, tenants, landlords and judges swirl under the impact of a litany of pandemic remedial pronouncements from all levels of government. A sure foundation of all ensuing confusion? Pennsylvania’s poorest citizens are suffering.