Sunday, September 30, 2007

Strange Notion of Poverty

Fairfax County, Virginia, has public housing for those who are too poor to afford to live in unsubsidized housing. But it seems to be a rather strange notion of poverty at work, according to this September 30, 2007 Washington Post article:
Hundreds of families living in housing subsidized by Fairfax County taxpayers exceed income caps designed to ensure that only the neediest receive assistance, a review of county records shows.

In the most extreme cases, Fairfax is underwriting rents for families making well into six figures: One household getting help makes more than $216,000 a year; another, $184,000. Dozens of others -- making $60,000, $70,000, $90,000 -- exceed eligibility caps. And they do so with the tacit approval of county housing administrators, who do little to encourage occupants to move on when their fortunes improve.

These tenants live in housing intended for families at the bottom of the county's economic spectrum. They are in the federally subsidized public housing program, the Fairfax rental program and the county's senior housing program. The county's Department of Housing and Community Development will spend about $4.5 million this year running these programs.
I am sympathetic to governmental attempts to help the poor. But what happens when "the poor" include households making more than four times the national average ($46,326 per year in 2005)?

The rest of the article goes on to say that you know, housing is really expensive in Fairfax County, and that's part of why people with six figure incomes aren't moving out of government subsidized housing. But I think there are some people who have good reasons to be upset about this:

1. People who are struggling--without government subsidies--to make house payments on $40,000 a year household incomes in much of the United States.

2. People who are struggling to put food on the table or provide health care for their children on $15,000 a year in much of the United States.

When government generosity for "the poor" is being funneled into six figure income households, it discredits the notion of governmental help to the poor.

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