Being poor is no picnic in a thousand little ways. People give the poor grief for using food stamps to buy junk food and sugary drinks. And now, a study using data from the New York State Department of Health hints at a partial reason: Food manufacturers know food stamps are issued monthly and typically spent within a week. So poorer shoppers are targeted with soda sales in the first week of the month.
In neighborhoods with few food stamp users, there’s no correlation of soda sales and date, but in poor neighborhoods, it’s 4.35 times more likely there will be a soda sale in the week food stamps are issued. Interestingly, low-calorie soda ads didn’t increase, just the sugary ones. Pretty sleazy to target the poor (grocery stores and drinks makers all denied it) and then listen to politicians legislate what they buy.
But we’re on CandysDirt.com to talk about housing and real estate where the poor are targeted with similar empathy.
Last month I wrote about how the Ben Carson-run Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had outlined legislation aimed at making poor people pay more for federal housing assistance. This month, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports on its research into the plans’ costs and effects both nationally, statewide and municipally.
There are now two plans that largely target the poor in mildly different ways, but as you can see from the graphic above, the results are similar. The administration plan targets the poor from the federal level while the plan from House Financial Services Housing and Insurance Subcommittee Vice Chairman Dennis Ross (R-Florida) allows the states some leeway in how hard they attack the poor.
The administration plan would raise rents annually by $3.2 billion nationwide while the more parsimonious Ross plan allows for increased rent totaling up to $4.9 billion (Feeling good about last year’s tax cuts for the wealthy?).
Both plans’ authors say the point of raising rents is to get the poor working. The terror of losing it all and living on the streets should grind out a few more hours of crappy work from the poor. These are the same people who think it’s grand to rip children away from their families as a deterrent to immigration.
Mind you, we’re currently classed as being at full employment status. How many businesses do you pass each day with “help wanted” signs in the window? Lots.
And it’s not like people aren’t working who qualify for housing assistance (barring the disabled and aged). If you want to charge more rent, increase wages. In fact, increase wages to living wages to a point where full-time workers can’t qualify for assistance in the first place. But no, “spend less time with your kids” is the message (so the resulting latchkey kids will be more likely to wind up in jail).
State and Metroplex Outcomes
Comprising just less than half, the biggest losers will be poor children who already have a terrible trajectory into decent schools and ultimately jobs that will uplift them from the poverty cycle (shouldn’t that be the goal?). In total, 73 percent of those affected will be children, the disabled and elderly – people for whom going out and working more is near impossible.
To review, both plans feel the poor should be working more so they can pay more rent, yet nearly three-quarters of the affected can’t do that.
And since they can’t work more to contribute to the rent, homelessness will increase. And if you think it’s hard to get out of poverty with a place to live, try doing it on the streets.
Sometimes I’m questioned why I call policies like this “criminalizing poverty.” What I should be calling them is economic cleansing. What else would you call it when, in the Metroplex, the average annual rent for a HUD assisted household is $4,070 (30 percent of a $13,000 annual adjusted income), and your rent gets jacked up $850 or 9.5 percent of the $8,930 remainder of annual income?
Few of us can even imagine living on that little. Guess what? Sugary sodas or not, if Congress passes these draconian measures, the poor won’t be “living” on it either.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.