FAIRFAX, Va. -- Resort-style swimming pools with fountains and heated spas, billiards rooms, granite counter tops, ceramic tile, indoor basketball courts, stainless steel appliances -- many Fairfax County taxpayers cannot afford such luxuries. But they are paying for these amenities for use by low-income residents who live in subsidized housing in affluent neighborhoods......
Henderson, Nev - Section 8 tenants can score swimming pools, backyard barbecue grills and walk-in closets.
Some are even requesting features ranging from Jacuzzi tubs to parquet floors
Sharon Jasper has been victimized. Sharon Jasper has been rabidly wronged. She has become a Section 8 care case "the victim of ever changing public housing policies.
Sharon Jasper has spent 57 or her 58 years dedicated to one cause and one cause only, and has nothing to show for her dedicated servitude. She has lived in Section 8 housing all but 1 of her 58 years. It was a legacy passed down from her parents who moved into Section 8 housing in 1949 when she was six months old. She has passed the legacy down to her children, but fears they may have to get jobs to pay for the utilities and deposits. She laments about her one year hiatus from the comfort of her Section 8 nirvana, ' I tried it for a year..you know, working and all. It's not anything I would want to go through again, or wish on anyone in my family, but I am damn proud of that year.'
Sharon was moved out of her St. Bernard housing project after hurricane Katrina and into a new, yet albeit, substandard quarterage. As can be noted from the above photo of her new Section 8 home, it is repugnant and not suitable for someone of Sharon Jasper's seniority status in the system.
'Don't be fooled by them hardwood floors,' says Sharon. 'They told me they were putting in scraped woodfloors cause it was more expensive and elegant, but I am not a fool "that was just a way to make me take scratched up wood because I am black. The 60 inch HD TV? It may look nice but it is not a plasma. It's not a plasma because I'm black. Now they want me to pay a deposit and utilities on this dump.' 'Do you know why?'
She has held her tongue in silence through the years of abuse by the system, but it came to a head at the New Orlean's city council meeting where discussions were under way about the tearing down of the St. Bernard projects. When a near riotous exchange between groups opposing the tearing down of St. Bernard and groups wanting the dilapidated buildings torn down and newer ones built, Sharon unleashed verbal hell with her once silenced tongue. The object of her oratory prowess was an acquiescent poor white boy in attendance. The context of her scathing rebuke was, 'Just because you pay for my house, my car, my big screen and my food, I will not be treated like a slave!' and 'Back up and Shut up! Shut up, white boy! Shut up, white boy!'
Recapping from the mental log of the city council minutes in her head, Sharon repines, 'Our families have been displaced all over the United States. They are being forced to commit crimes in cities they are unfamiliar with. It is a very uncomfortable situation for them. Bring them back, then let's talk about redevelopment.'
Sharon directs the reporter's attention across the street to Duncan Plaza where homeless people are living in tents and states that, 'I might do better out there with one of these tents.' She further lamented her sentiments about her situation,' I might be poor, but I don't have to live poor.
Raising Hell in Subsidized Housing
Section 8 rental subsidies have long helped ruin neighborhoods. Obama administration policies are making things worse.
AUGUST 17, 2011
Section 8 rental subsidies have long been one of the most controversial federal social programs. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Obama administration is making a troubled program worse.
In the 1990s, the feds were embarrassed by skyrocketing crime rates in public housing—up to 10 times the national average, according to HUD studies and many newspaper reports. The government's response was to hand out vouchers to residents of the projects (authorized under Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974), dispersing them to safer and more upscale locales.
Section 8's budget soared to $19 billion this year from $7 billion in 1994. HUD now picks up the rent for more than two million households nationwide; tenants pay 30% of their income toward rent and utilities while the feds pay the rest. Section 8 recipients receive monthly rental subsidies of up to $2,851 in the Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., area, $2,764 in Honolulu and $2,582 in Columbia, Md.
But the dispersal of public housing residents to quieter neighborhoods has failed to weed out the criminal element that made life miserable for most residents of the projects. "Homicide was simply moved to a new location, not eliminated," concluded University of Louisville criminologist Geetha Suresh in a 2009 article in Homicide Studies. In Louisville, Memphis, and other cities, violent crime skyrocketed in neighborhoods where Section 8 recipients resettled.
After a four-year investigation, the Indianapolis Housing Authority (IHA) in 2006 linked 80% of criminal homicides in Marion County, Ind., to individuals fraudulently obtaining federal assistance "in either the public housing program or the Section 8 program administered by the agency." The IHA released an update last month citing recent crackdowns on a "nationwide criminal motorcycle gang operating out of a Section 8 home." It also noted one "attorney who allegedly operated a law practice from a Section 8 home for eight years, providing shelter to unauthorized occupants who were linked to 10 homicides, 431 police calls and 394 criminal
Dubuque, Iowa, is struggling with an influx of Section 8 recipients from Chicago housing projects. Section 8 concentrations account for 11 of 13 local violent crime hot spots, according to a study by the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies. Though Section 8 residents account for only 5% of the local population, a 2010 report released by the city government found that more than 20% of arrestees resided at Section 8 addresses.
Dubuque's city government responded by trimming the size of the local Section 8 program. HUD retaliated by launching a "civil rights compliance review" of the program (final results pending).
HUD seems far more enthusiastic about cracking down on localities than on troublesome Section 8 recipients who make life miserable for the rest of the community. And because Section 8 recipients in some areas are mostly black or Latino, almost any enforcement effort can be denounced as discriminatory.
HUD launched an investigation of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority in 2009 after an Ohio attorney accused the authority of racially discriminatory Section 8 policies such as "eviction for offenses such as loud music." In June of this year, the authority signed a conciliation agreement with HUD, pledging to cease penalizing Section 8 recipients for nuisance offenses. Policing tenant behavior was the job of police and landlords but "an ineffective use of resources" by the housing authority that "could lead to inappropriate program terminations," HUD spokeswoman Laura Feldman told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
After the city of Antioch, Calif., formed a Community Action Team to assist the Contra Costa County Housing Authority in curbing violence and other problems in subsidized housing, the Bay Area Legal Aid sued the local police department in 2008, claiming it was guilty of racial discrimination because of an allegedly "concerted and unlawful campaign to seek evidence which could lead to the termination of participants' Section 8 voucher benefits." (The case is ongoing.)
Nevertheless, middle-class blacks are the program's least inhibited critics. Sheldon Carter of Antelope Valley, Calif., testified at a recent public hearing on local Section 8 controversies: "This is not a racial issue. It is a color issue. The color is green and it's my dollars." Shirlee Bolds told Iowa's Dubuque Telegraph Herald in 2009: "I moved away from the city to get away from all this crap. Dubuque's getting rough. I think it's turning into a little Chicago, like they're bringing the street rep here."
Remarkably, HUD seems bent on creating a new civil right—the right to raise hell in subsidized housing in nice neighborhoods. Earlier this year, the agency decreed that Section 8 tenants (as well as other renters) who are evicted because of domestic violence incidents may sue for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act because women are "the overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims." In essence, this gives troublesome tenants a federal trump card to play against landlords who seek to preserve the peace and protect other renters.
In June, HUD encouraged local housing agencies to permit ex-convicts (except for the most extreme sex offenders or individuals caught manufacturing methamphetamine "on the premises of federally assisted housing") to move in with relatives in Section 8 or public housing after exiting prison. The Virginian-Pilot condemned the new policy last week, noting that "it's unwise to allow people with a history of violence into public housing developments designed for the elderly and disabled residents."
The Obama administration is now launching a pilot program giving local housing authorities wide discretion to pay higher rent subsidies to allow Section 8 beneficiaries to move into even more affluent zip codes.
Hasn't this program helped wreck enough neighborhoods?
We have to have social programs...
We have to have social programs..
You live in Californicatia??
New Orleans' Public Housing Slowly Evolving
August 29, 2010
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans five years ago, more than 5,000 families lived in the city's public housing developments. Now, only a third of them are back in public housing. Many have found homes elsewhere.
Some former residents think the storm gave the city an excuse to get rid of some of its poorest residents. Housing officials say, on the contrary, it was a chance to improve their lives.
Almost a year after the storm, then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced that the government would demolish flood-damaged public housing projects and replace them with new, mixed-income developments. He said it would bring a "renaissance" to city neighborhoods.
Many who evacuated from public housing fought those plans. They argued that developments slated for demolition could be repaired. But, eventually, the government won.
'I Don't Like My Lifestyle'
Today, Bobbie Jennings, 64, is among the first few dozen families to move back into one of the new developments. It's called Harmony Oaks and is on the site of the former C.J. Peete housing project, where Jennings lived for more than 30 years before the storm.
But she's not happy.
"In their eyesight it might be better, but in my eyesight it's not," says Jennings, a retired nursing assistant.
Don't get her wrong, she says, the new units are lovely. Jennings has a two-story townhouse, with 2 1/2 baths and a modern kitchen, which she shares with her daughter and two grandchildren. But Jennings says she's just not comfortable living there.
"People around here don't know me. They don't know my grandchildren," Jennings says. "I very seldom sit outside. [There] is nobody to talk to now."
Many of her former neighbors haven't returned, and they couldn't even if they wanted to. Only one-third of the units in the new complex are devoted to public housing. The rest will go to residents with higher incomes. The government's plan is to avoid the old days of warehousing the poor.
Jennings says she also has to pay higher rent — and utilities, which she never had to pay before. And her twin sister, Gloria Williams, now lives around the corner on another street. She used to live right next door.
"It's harder for me," Jennings says. "I love the unit, but I don't like my lifestyle."
But not every former C.J. Peete resident feels the same. Jocquelyn Marshall grew up here and says there's no question Harmony Oaks is a vast improvement over the aging, crime-ridden development she fled five years ago.
Marshall now has a three-bedroom brick house with peach shutters that she shares with her son. Everything is clean and new. There's even a big outdoor pool and exercise room nearby for her to use.
I'm gonna fight until all the fight is gone out of me. But when you can't fight no more, you can't fight no more. You have to give up.
- Bobbie Jennings, about sticking it out in the new Harmony Oaks development
"I love my house," she says. "I love the landscaping, how it goes up a little on a hill."
Marshall, who's president of the Harmony Oaks Neighborhood Association, knows that the journey here has left lots of ill feelings and mistrust, that housing officials promised more than they could deliver, and residents were sometimes lied to and left in the dark. But she says, at some point, former residents had to decide whether to keep fighting the planned demolition or help to shape what was to be built instead.
"Many individuals, when they were relocated off the site and given vouchers to live in other cities, they started living in better conditions. They didn't want to come back to bad plumbing. They didn't want to come back to the crime," she says.
David Gilmore, who runs the Housing Authority of New Orleans, says Hurricane Katrina only hastened what was bound to happen sooner or later to the city's aging public housing stock. And he thinks it's for the best.
"Nobody in his right mind would ever build a C.J. Peete again, or any of these developments again, in the same manner in which they were built the first time," he says. "So what's the choice? The choice is then to go figure out what makes more sense."
The Harmony Oaks development allows residents to use this room free of charge for parties.
And that, he says, is the mixed-income communities now being built, with less stigma for the poor and more opportunities for residents, like job training and counseling.
Gilmore says he understands that people are frustrated. Redevelopment takes a long time, and it could be several more years before the projects are complete. The city's housing authority has also been hampered by mismanagement and corruption. Gilmore was brought in earlier this year by HUD to turn things around.
"I think folks need to be told the straight scoop right from the outset," he says. "Yes, we're going to do this. And no, we're not going to do this. We just can't get it done."
And that includes telling public housing residents that not every one of them will get to return, that some instead will get vouchers to find other housing in New Orleans and elsewhere. In fact, that's what many former public housing residents have already done. Gilmore says that no one who qualifies for aid will be abandoned.
Housing advocates say they're hopeful he'll be good to his word. But they're worried about a shortage of affordable units in a city where rents have gone sky high.
Laura Tuggle with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services says there's been a lot of housing help from the federal government since Katrina.
"But the demand is so huge that if you were to re-open the public housing waiting list today, I am certain that you would get thousands and thousands of more applications," she says.
For now, Bobbie Jennings says she's going to try to stick it out at Harmony Oaks.
This month, she took a hit when her daughter got a job and her rent went up $160 a month.
To help pay for it, Jennings returned the sofa set she was trying to buy on layaway for her new post-Katrina home.