D.C. lawmakers, in all of their wisdom, determined that poor, homeless people should be entitled to better housing than most middle-income earners. It went as well as anyone could have predicted.
Yet here’s a Washington Post headline on the policy: “D.C. housed the homeless in upscale apartments. It hasn’t gone as planned.”
You don’t say.
The sudden inflow of poor D.C. residents into one pricey apartment complex has led to new complaints of “panhandling, marijuana smoke in the halls and feces discovered on a landing in the stairwell,” according to the Post’s story.
In 2017, commissioners of D.C.’s housing authority raised the value of home rental vouchers for lower-income residents “so families can get back into neighborhoods … where they were priced out.” Getting “back into neighborhoods” apparently includes really rich neighborhoods that they never could have afforded without the voucher.
The program is astonishing in its generosity — using taxpayer money, much of which comes from people who live in more modest apartments. For a studio-style apartment in the city, a voucher will cover up to $2,520 per month in rent. For a one bedroom, it covers up to $2,648.
The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in D.C. is about $1,550 per month. In other words, if I want a better place than the one I live in right now, I need to become homeless.
Voucher recipients are only required to put forth 30% of their income, no matter what it is, toward the rent.
The Post story looks at the once-beautiful Sedgwick Gardens apartment building in upper Northwest Washington as a case study in the havoc that the voucher program is causing. Poor residents are found dead in their apartments from overdosing. Common areas are strewn with litter. Human waste is found in the halls — something the Post described as a “less serious” nuisance.
Homelessness is empirically driven by mental illness and addiction. A quarter of the nation’s homeless suffer from serious mental illness, a quarter are drug abusers, and nearly 40 percent are dependent on alcohol.
Why would you take these people and give them free rein of an apartment building in an affluent neighborhood? Why wouldn’t you first evaluate their condition and determine a practical location for their housing? It may not be a studio apartment in a posh high rise but, hey, life isn’t fair, and nobody wants to smell your rotting corpse next door.
The Post’s report said the complaints at Sedgwick Gardens about disturbances caused by the inpouring of new and destitute residents created “a dynamic that has unavoidable undertones of race and class in a largely white neighborhood.”
No one is complaining that minorities are in their neighborhoods. They’re complaining about having almost stepped on a grown man’s turd in the stairwell, which arrived there courtesy of their own tax dollars.
The homeless are given a bunch of money to move into nice apartments. It’s not going as planned, but it’s going exactly as anyone could have expected.