Less Is More: NYCHA Uses HUD Magic Math To Squander Public Housing

A mid 20th century New York City Public Housing High rise building
Queensbridge beauty photo by Nick Normal is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
NYCHA Housing. Here today, gone tomorrow? HUD funding programs seem designed to ensure it.

The great equalities of the future as described in George Orwell’s book 1984 are almost upon us.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. The last is a tip of the hat to populism, whether politically left or right.

To which we must add the equality ‘Less is More.’ This expression began life as an architectural fashion statement in favour of minimalism by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

It evolved to become a convenient equality in the field of American affordable housing, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ‘supporting’ this equality with fewer dollars and more human lives.1

These days, few statements of opinion are shared by conservatives and progressives. There is no agreement that there is a housing crisis gripping the country. Nor is there agreement that the middle class are in the midst of a housing crisis.

However, for the lowest classes, there is agreement across all political stripes. There is a housing crisis for those who earn minimum wage, or do sporadic contract work, or have no income (e.g. seniors without pensions, single parents, those with health issues).

The response by the nation’s housing leadership? Less is more.

HUD is touting privatizing public housing as the answer. But when housing or services are privatized, for every dollar spent, some amount (say 15 cents), will go to the development or management company’s profit. In real math, that means 15 cents less to public housing.

But these days, less is more. HUD lards its self-puffery with the term ‘leverage’, as if joining forces with the private sector will ‘leverage’ money out of the private purse. Using real math, the opposite is true. But then, less is also more. Inevitably, less low income housing. Inevitably more life-shortening, homeless lives.

Read between the lines in Archinet: NYCHA Privatizes Management Of 5,900 Units To Fund Needed Repairs

Footnotes

  1. Try: Affordable Housing Christmas In The Long Shadow of Scrooge