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Old 11-20-2014, 09:29 AM
 
Location: I am right here.
4,914 posts, read 4,067,479 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ughhnyc View Post
China gradually shifted from communism over 15 years ago. It's now a consumerist social republic. Yes the party still exists, but fiscal interests trump all. And communism works. Although some may be opposed to some it's doctrines, it is the most efficient system of government, like it or not.

And having lived in both China and the US, I can safely say that the US is at least ten times worse in terms of human rights violations. From the microwave attacks, detention camps, police murdering innocent citizens, swat raids on citzens homes. You would almost never see anything even remotely close to these types of human rights and quality of life issues in PRC.

Don't believe all the negativity that liberal rags like the NY Times write about China. Educate yourself on the differences first.
Cuz China never murders innocent citizens, forces women to have abortions, squelches religious freedom, etc.

They don't even have clean air.
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Old 11-20-2014, 10:25 AM
 
Location: Seattle
1,531 posts, read 1,314,962 times
Reputation: 3600
I probably shouldn’t get involved in this, but…

There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in this thread, but rather than call it out, I’ll just summarize my views, gained from working in both the public and nonprofit sectors in the field of homelessness and affordable housing for the bulk of my career, in several states and in a couple of overseas countries.

First, the majority of homeless people in the US are largely invisible. It varies by region (and also by time of year) but there are far more homeless people couch-surfing, or doubling up in overcrowded conditions, or sleeping in their cars, then there are people sleeping on the streets. Homelessness is as much a rural as an urban problem – there are many places where you go up some rural valley and will find encampments of cars or travel trailers with families present. But unless you know what you’re looking for, you’ll miss them.

Second, numbers vary by source, but it’s generally accepted that roughly half the US homeless population is under the age of 16. Where I worked most recently, we housed several hundred homeless people (in permanent accommodation, not shelters) annually. Our typical homeless client profile was a white, 19 year old female with two children under the age of 3. No high school diploma, no marketable skills. Drugs and alcohol were NOT typical, nor was mental illness. I say half, but it could easily be more; censuses of the homeless miss a great many because people move around, in and out of fixed accommodation, and the “invisibility” factor precludes a better analysis of the demographics. But nobody in the field will argue that homelessness among children isn't a huge part of the problem.

Now, moving from statistics to opinion, I’ll summarize my views by saying this. Homelessness is NOT a housing problem, it’s an INCOME problem.

Over the years I’ve been responsible for the building (including substantial rehab of existing structures) of around 2500 units of housing for homeless and very-low-income people, mostly families, and for the long-term management of an equivalent number of units (memory fades, alas.)

Each and every one of those units had to be built or rehabbed to conform to all the appropriate building, zoning, health, fire, and housing codes. Those codes require minimum area and/or bedrooms per household unit, adequate heat and ventilation, hot water, electricity, sanitation standards… in other words, “normal.” Nowhere in the US will you find local authorities willing to waive basic standards because the occupants will be low-income or formerly homeless. Can you imagine the lawsuits or criminal negligence cases that would result from a fire in such facilities? Do the words "equal protection" ring any bells?

In fact, we generally had to build units that were MORE durable and sustainable than typical, because, frankly, they had higher turnover and tended to be occupied by people who weren’t especially skilled in maintaining or managing their lodgings.

All of which costs money. Money to build new units – nowadays you’re looking at around $200 per square foot (varies by region, of course) so a 1,000 SF 2-bedroom apartment will cost $200K to build.

Money to build those units doesn’t come easy. There are federal programs, chief among which is a tax-credit program developed in 1986 (sponsored by Democrats, signed by Reagan) which basically rewards private development by giving generous tax benefits to the developers, without any actual cash flowing from the government to the developers – just revenue that DOESN’T flow back to the government later.

But when tax rates are cut, the incentive to chase tax credits falls, hence housing development tanks.

There are state and local funding channels, which, not surprisingly, vary hugely from state to state, city to city. Some of these, too, are “passive” sources, meaning that the state/local government doesn’t actually give money for development, they just forego revenues that other types of development would generate – taxes in particular.

There are charitable and other sources too, not the least of which are banks that will make mortgage loans to help finance construction or rehab projects.

A typical development that I directed would usually have between eight and twelve separate sources of funds for capital development – investor equity, federal, state, county, city, charitable, mortgage debt… all layered and regulated and subordinated to one another in a crazy tangle of overlapping standards and expectations. If you haven’t done it, you really can’t grasp how complicated and frustrating it can be. Most for-profit developers will run screaming, leaving the field to nonprofits who often can’t afford to pay for people qualified to tackle this complexity. I’m frankly amazed at how successful we were, given the circumstances.

But I want to circle back to a few paragraphs above. Homelessness isn’t a housing problem, it’s an income problem.

Why? Because after the units are built or rehabbed, somebody’s got to pay the bills. Not just the mortgage (and there will be one) but the utilities, the management, the maintenance, the property taxes, the compliance costs with all the bureaucrats’ and bankers’ fingers in the pot…

And if your tenants are 19-year old girls with two kids, where are they going to get the rent check? How about the grocery check, the child care check, the electric bill check, the health insurance check, the diaper check?

Oh, they can receive public assistance (if there are kids in the household, otherwise basically nothing) and help with food. But getting an education so that they can enter the workforce? Free childcare while Mom gets her GED or flips burgers? In 2014 America? What are you smoking? Do you think for a minute that the bank is going to accept hugs and kisses for its mortgage payment?

Singling out alcoholic panhandlers and talking about labor-camp solutions, or – what – debtors’ prison? – really misses the point. Sure, a great many street homeless are mentally ill or have chronic diseases like alcoholism. Those folks are even harder to serve, because most of the potential assistance programs have a strong moralistic streak (clean up or get out) that leads me to ask, “How’s that working for you?”

But it’s been demonstrated over and over that even THOSE super hard-to-serve people can get into stable circumstances if they have ENOUGH MONEY to pay for their rent and their food and minimal social service support. Harder and with a lower rate of successful outcome (measured how?) but NOT impossible.

But addressing all this is going to require a huge shift in public policy and perception. When you tell people that the average homeowner receives more annual federal housing assistance than the average homeless family (through the mortgage interest and property tax income tax deduction) they’ll give you a quizzical look. But it’s a fact in most parts of the country.

Not a housing problem, an income problem.
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Old 11-20-2014, 10:46 AM
 
4,367 posts, read 3,552,007 times
Reputation: 2926
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
I probably shouldn’t get involved in this, but…

There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in this thread, but rather than call it out, I’ll just summarize my views, gained from working in both the public and nonprofit sectors in the field of homelessness and affordable housing for the bulk of my career, in several states and in a couple of overseas countries.

First, the majority of homeless people in the US are largely invisible. It varies by region (and also by time of year) but there are far more homeless people couch-surfing, or doubling up in overcrowded conditions, or sleeping in their cars, then there are people sleeping on the streets. Homelessness is as much a rural as an urban problem – there are many places where you go up some rural valley and will find encampments of cars or travel trailers with families present. But unless you know what you’re looking for, you’ll miss them.

Second, numbers vary by source, but it’s generally accepted that roughly half the US homeless population is under the age of 16. Where I worked most recently, we housed several hundred homeless people (in permanent accommodation, not shelters) annually. Our typical homeless client profile was a white, 19 year old female with two children under the age of 3. No high school diploma, no marketable skills. Drugs and alcohol were NOT typical, nor was mental illness. I say half, but it could easily be more; censuses of the homeless miss a great many because people move around, in and out of fixed accommodation, and the “invisibility” factor precludes a better analysis of the demographics. But nobody in the field will argue that homelessness among children isn't a huge part of the problem.

Now, moving from statistics to opinion, I’ll summarize my views by saying this. Homelessness is NOT a housing problem, it’s an INCOME problem.

Over the years I’ve been responsible for the building (including substantial rehab of existing structures) of around 2500 units of housing for homeless and very-low-income people, mostly families, and for the long-term management of an equivalent number of units (memory fades, alas.)

Each and every one of those units had to be built or rehabbed to conform to all the appropriate building, zoning, health, fire, and housing codes. Those codes require minimum area and/or bedrooms per household unit, adequate heat and ventilation, hot water, electricity, sanitation standards… in other words, “normal.” Nowhere in the US will you find local authorities willing to waive basic standards because the occupants will be low-income or formerly homeless. Can you imagine the lawsuits or criminal negligence cases that would result from a fire in such facilities? Do the words "equal protection" ring any bells?

In fact, we generally had to build units that were MORE durable and sustainable than typical, because, frankly, they had higher turnover and tended to be occupied by people who weren’t especially skilled in maintaining or managing their lodgings.

All of which costs money. Money to build new units – nowadays you’re looking at around $200 per square foot (varies by region, of course) so a 1,000 SF 2-bedroom apartment will cost $200K to build.

Money to build those units doesn’t come easy. There are federal programs, chief among which is a tax-credit program developed in 1986 (sponsored by Democrats, signed by Reagan) which basically rewards private development by giving generous tax benefits to the developers, without any actual cash flowing from the government to the developers – just revenue that DOESN’T flow back to the government later.

But when tax rates are cut, the incentive to chase tax credits falls, hence housing development tanks.

There are state and local funding channels, which, not surprisingly, vary hugely from state to state, city to city. Some of these, too, are “passive” sources, meaning that the state/local government doesn’t actually give money for development, they just forego revenues that other types of development would generate – taxes in particular.

There are charitable and other sources too, not the least of which are banks that will make mortgage loans to help finance construction or rehab projects.

A typical development that I directed would usually have between eight and twelve separate sources of funds for capital development – investor equity, federal, state, county, city, charitable, mortgage debt… all layered and regulated and subordinated to one another in a crazy tangle of overlapping standards and expectations. If you haven’t done it, you really can’t grasp how complicated and frustrating it can be. Most for-profit developers will run screaming, leaving the field to nonprofits who often can’t afford to pay for people qualified to tackle this complexity. I’m frankly amazed at how successful we were, given the circumstances.

But I want to circle back to a few paragraphs above. Homelessness isn’t a housing problem, it’s an income problem.

Why? Because after the units are built or rehabbed, somebody’s got to pay the bills. Not just the mortgage (and there will be one) but the utilities, the management, the maintenance, the property taxes, the compliance costs with all the bureaucrats’ and bankers’ fingers in the pot…

And if your tenants are 19-year old girls with two kids, where are they going to get the rent check? How about the grocery check, the child care check, the electric bill check, the health insurance check, the diaper check?

Oh, they can receive public assistance (if there are kids in the household, otherwise basically nothing) and help with food. But getting an education so that they can enter the workforce? Free childcare while Mom gets her GED or flips burgers? In 2014 America? What are you smoking? Do you think for a minute that the bank is going to accept hugs and kisses for its mortgage payment?

Singling out alcoholic panhandlers and talking about labor-camp solutions, or – what – debtors’ prison? – really misses the point. Sure, a great many street homeless are mentally ill or have chronic diseases like alcoholism. Those folks are even harder to serve, because most of the potential assistance programs have a strong moralistic streak (clean up or get out) that leads me to ask, “How’s that working for you?”

But it’s been demonstrated over and over that even THOSE super hard-to-serve people can get into stable circumstances if they have ENOUGH MONEY to pay for their rent and their food and minimal social service support. Harder and with a lower rate of successful outcome (measured how?) but NOT impossible.

But addressing all this is going to require a huge shift in public policy and perception. When you tell people that the average homeowner receives more annual federal housing assistance than the average homeless family (through the mortgage interest and property tax income tax deduction) they’ll give you a quizzical look. But it’s a fact in most parts of the country.

Not a housing problem, an income problem.
Okay, so would the communal farm idea work? Maybe it wouldn't, but restrictions are much more lax in the rural areas than in the urban areas, and people have the advantage of being able to live off of the land. Weren't there communal farms in the 60's where people moved and lived off of the land? Why isn't that a possible solution? I suggested it on this thread but was told that it would be too expensive to keep the land up. Everyone would have work to do, though, and the skills they learned from working on the farm would probably be transferrable to other industries. Is there a way to tweak that idea and make it work?
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:01 AM
 
Location: Oceania
8,623 posts, read 6,252,837 times
Reputation: 8318
A word I have always disdained can be pointed to - gentrification.

Everyone seemingly wants to gentrify every nook and cranny of the USA for some reason. How much of the country lives in poverty? Gentrification pushes those people aside to demolish the neighborhoods they lived in so condos can be built as well as
Starbucks and anything else those who move from one city to another feels they must have in order to be happy in their new digs. They want all of the crappy chain eateries they had in the crappy cities they moved from. Why move?

It brings to mind the commercial with 4 hip guys in a pool hall who decide to "mix it up" by taking a road trip to some other locale miles away only to end up in another faceless pool hall doing the same thing they were in their usual haunt. They feel satisfied in their action as they "mixed it up".

Budweiser tastes the same no matter which 7-11 you get it from. A fancy "Beer Emporium" might sound cool and hip but most people will opt for 7-11 and lower prices. Those seeking Big Horn Sweet Honey Wheat Country Ale will frequent Beer Emporium for the $12 6 pack stuff but most don't seek that stuff. Gentrification is a move to rid society of a perceived unwanted segment of society; those who don't drink craft brewed beer qualify.
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:05 AM
 
12,705 posts, read 9,975,776 times
Reputation: 9515
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmb501 View Post
Hmmm...

Well,

Why couldn't a city build small cheap shelters, maybe styled a little like dorms or guest houses, and charge a very low fee for occupants to rent them, like say one-hundred dollars per occupant per month? Ten or twenty occupants would be paying enough to the project to keep it running, and the cities may even make a small profit. There would also be little complaining, because the homeless people would be paying their own way but paying what they could afford. Since these wouldn't be designated projects or shelters, they could also have barriers for entry, such as drug testing and a maximum residency duration, so that everyone could stay safe. Also, since these wouldn't be known homeless shelters but disguised as regular houses, group homes, boarding houses, etc., perhaps there wouldn't be such a strong stigma, and these could exist in safer neighborhoods. I hate the idea of people being thrown away. If I had the resources, I think I would certainly do something.
Or just legalize "adult dorms" with two people to a bedroom, and communal bathroom/shower/cooking. Or tiny houses in the city.

The problem is zoning laws, not a lack of money. Remove the obstacles and the private market will take care of a good portion of the problem. The remaining homeless can probably fit into existing shelters.
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:12 AM
 
Location: Seattle
1,531 posts, read 1,314,962 times
Reputation: 3600
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmb501 View Post
Okay, so would the communal farm idea work? Maybe it wouldn't, but restrictions are much more lax in the rural areas than in the urban areas, and people have the advantage of being able to live off of the land. Weren't there communal farms in the 60's where people moved and lived off of the land? Why isn't that a possible solution? I suggested it on this thread but was told that it would be too expensive to keep the land up. Everyone would have work to do, though, and the skills they learned from working on the farm would probably be transferrable to other industries. Is there a way to tweak that idea and make it work?
You're kidding, right? Force people to move to a farm? And what makes you think "restrictions are much more lax" in rural areas? The laws we're talking about are all state or federal laws. Rural areas are actually MUCH more expensive to develop, because you usually have to bring in the required infrastructure - roads, utilities, etc.

What transferable skills would a teenaged mother with two babies pick up milking cows?

C'mon. What you're talking about has been tried, with poor farms (not in the 1960s, but in the 1920s and 1930s) and before that, with a cute social institution called "indentured servitude."

Just my view, but we need to find solutions that work in the 21st century, not the 19th.
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:41 AM
 
4,367 posts, read 3,552,007 times
Reputation: 2926
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
You're kidding, right? Force people to move to a farm? And what makes you think "restrictions are much more lax" in rural areas? The laws we're talking about are all state or federal laws. Rural areas are actually MUCH more expensive to develop, because you usually have to bring in the required infrastructure - roads, utilities, etc.

What transferable skills would a teenaged mother with two babies pick up milking cows?

C'mon. What you're talking about has been tried, with poor farms (not in the 1960s, but in the 1920s and 1930s) and before that, with a cute social institution called "indentured servitude."

Just my view, but we need to find solutions that work in the 21st century, not the 19th.
Okay,

I'm guessing things like this won't work. Okay, I was just asking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Farm_(Tennessee), Homeless by Choice: How to Live for Free in America - The Atlantic
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:47 AM
 
Location: Washington state
5,440 posts, read 2,764,764 times
Reputation: 16373
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
I probably shouldn’t get involved in this, but…

Now, moving from statistics to opinion, I’ll summarize my views by saying this. Homelessness is NOT a housing problem, it’s an INCOME problem.
THANK YOU!

Add to that, nobody here realizes how many people they know who have had a homeless experience in their lives. People who put down the homeless are sometimes putting down their boss, their coworkers, or the person who is serving them coffee. I went from homeless to owning a house in less than ten years. When I was in my truck, I was the scum of the earth, even though I was working. When I had a house, I was a contributing member of society. It's amazing the labels you have stuck to you based only on what you have or don't have.
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Old 11-20-2014, 04:59 PM
 
Location: Tucson for awhile longer
8,872 posts, read 13,557,559 times
Reputation: 29033
In many American cities (particularly older cities), huge amounts of property are tax exempt. Churches, buildings owned by supposed non-profits, many schools and hospitals, government properties including museums and libraries, even some sporting facilities and event venues pay no property taxes. Many corporate property owners are given tax abatements or tax exemptions if they can claim they are creating jobs in the community. Individual home owners, therefore, bear the major burden of creating a tax base. As a result cities lack income, therefore they do not, as you imagine, "have enough money to provide safe transitional opportunities for people who have a reasonable need."
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Old 11-20-2014, 05:06 PM
 
4,367 posts, read 3,552,007 times
Reputation: 2926
Quote:
Originally Posted by rodentraiser View Post
THANK YOU!

Add to that, nobody here realizes how many people they know who have had a homeless experience in their lives. People who put down the homeless are sometimes putting down their boss, their coworkers, or the person who is serving them coffee. I went from homeless to owning a house in less than ten years. When I was in my truck, I was the scum of the earth, even though I was working. When I had a house, I was a contributing member of society. It's amazing the labels you have stuck to you based only on what you have or don't have.
That was my experience, too, although I haven't quite gotten a chance to be a homeowner or get myself off of survival wages. They do treat you like dirt, just because they think that you should be able to afford a house instead of sleeping in your car or crashing on a friend's couch. Sometimes these things just happen. I've already told my story, though.
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