New HUD Secretary’s Housing Experience Is A Mixed Message For Change

Marcia Fudge, a middle-aged Black woman, sits writing at a desk
Rep. Marcia Fudge photo by House Agriculture Committee is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
US President Joe Biden's pick for Secretary of Housing — Congresswoman Marcia Fudge

A recent article in City Journal attempts to put a hopeful twist on President Biden’s choice for Secretary of the US Department Of Housing And Urban Developement (HUD). His pick is Marcia Fudge, a woman of undeniable determination and talent, and limited experience of public housing — the immortal eagle that perpetually tears at the liver of housing-bound America.

Fudge has triumphed with a significant housing victory as the mayor of a small suburban city close to Cleveland, Ohio. With great courage she invested her political capital in the glory of free market housing, working tirelessly to create a gated middle class community for Blacks, which has been credited with “saving” the city of Warrensville Heights.

Fudge will surely be the first to admit that an important achievement — and it IS important — like new-build free market housing to encompass Black aspirations, does little or nothing to solve problems associated with a low and no income housing crisis.

Indeed, while Warrensville Heights possesses no social housing, it does have homes in an unhealthy free-market alternative — decaying privately-owned housing sustained by the Section 8 voucher program. (In passing, it is worth noting that left to its own devices and a convenient HUD subsidy program, private enterprise can address the low and no income crisis just as badly as public housing does.)

So, what gives the lie to cautious optimism about Fudge’s ability to take her problematic agency in hand? Can she build upon her free market housing experience to help lead the nation’s most vulnerable out of their slough of housing despair?

Fudge is on record in favour of “up and out.” There is to be no gold-bricking in public housing or similar schemes, public or private, to warehouse the most vulnerable. Once a resident acquires a source of income, they must quickly use it as the lever to vault themselves out of the cesspit and into respectable life.

And so it is apparently to be déjà vu all over again.

Before indulging in a cautious read about the suitability of Martha Fudge and her “up and out” philosophy of public housing, try first a National Review article that explains a 1930’s New Deal public housing plan for WORKERS, which would sustain buildings through RENT, was sabotaged.

How? “Up and out” policies stripped public housing of any capability to cover operating and maintenance costs through rent. This was achieved by throwing out people who were gainfully employed, eventually leaving public housing to those with extremely low or no income: seniors without pensions, the physically and mentally handicapped, single mothers and so on, salted by handfuls of bad apples that made life hell for management and tenants alike.

Ignoring the out-of-date trigger, read more in The National Review: An Improvement To Ben Carson’s Public-Housing Proposal

Follow it up with a taste of optimism (which lord knows, everybody wants and needs) about the future of American housing for its lowest income citizens in City Journal: Biden’s Encouraging HUD Pick

Only . . . is Fudge really the right person for the job?

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