The War On Homeless Americans
This is another update from your friendly neighborhood homeless advocate on the crusade to criminalize homeless Americans.
Chronicling homelessness: don't look to Ben Carson for help with the crisis -
Action on homelessness is taking place outside Washington, as New York guarantees legal counsel to evicted tenants
Since taking over as housing secretary, the former neurosurgeon Ben Carson has defended drastic cuts to the budget of his own department and proclaimed to the New York Times that public housing shouldn’t be too comfortable lest its inhabitants get used to government largesse.
"Public housing shouldn't be too comfortable". That's exactly the same argument mass incarceration fanatics use. We can't make prison "too comfortable" or all the poor people we toss in jail will be too cozy behind bars; not to mention that government largesse should be reserved for wealthy campaign contributors.
An example of homeless Americans getting too comfortable:
The life of a homeless encampment can be brief.
Consider Village of Hope, a fledgling homeless village that popped up in a remote, woodsy area of Portland in late January. It featured 10 tents on wooden platforms, a shared kitchen and “Chill Out Zone” for mental health decompression. There were even plans for a human-powered laundry trough. “I don’t look at it as primitive,” said an organizer, Lisa Lake. “We need to be innovative so people who have nothing can be self-sufficient.”
But the day after the camp appeared, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler called the self-governed encampment, on parks-owned wetlands near the Columbia river, “unacceptable”. On 2 February, police and rangers cleared the site without incident.
Officials evidently have few reservations about displacing people even in winter or amid a homelessness crisis of unprecedented scale across the west coast. Indeed, three days later, a San Jose camp dubbed “Googleville” was also swept.
One Village of Hope resident, Kerry Wheeler, asked: “Why can’t they let us have one little place?”
The simple answer to that is "because Mr. Market hates lazy poor people". If homeless Americans want "one little place" they should get a job!
Which brings us to the second article. Stop whining that the rent is too damned high! Get a job and pay rent dammit! What's your problem?
Declaration of war': liberals divided as California mulls housing push -
Proposal aimed at keeping up with population growth would limit cities’ power over housing, handing more control to state
This article describes the political clash between state activism and local
The mayor of Berkeley, California, has called it “a declaration of war”. A neighborhood group in Los Angeles said it would be akin to forcing Native Americans from their land.
So state housing legislation to create more low income housing is "akin to forcing Native Americans from their land". Really?
Amid a desperate housing crisis, legislators in the Golden State have prompted an outcry with new proposals that threaten to take the rulebook that governs American city planning and throw it out the window.
Their proposition: reducing cities’ power to decide what gets built and putting more control into state hands.
“We have a housing deficit in the millions and it grows every year,” said the state senator Scott Wiener, author of a bill at the center of the fight.
How large is the housing deficit?
To keep up with population growth, California needs to build 180,000 new homes each year. But for the last 10 years, it has constructed less than half that figure.
The rent is too damned high!
This scarcity has driven up rents and the prices of homes to the point where half of the state’s current residents can no longer afford them and homelessness has surged. In San Francisco, the state’s most expensive housing market, the median sales price of homes was $1.25m in 2016 and the median rent was $4,500.
Median rent is $4,500? Here's one specific example of the housing dilemma:
Inspiration for Wiener’s new bill stemmed in part from an unexpected corner: a squat building that once housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken in San Francisco’s desirable Mission district.
Over a decade ago, developers wanted to build 16 rental units there. But faced with neighborhood concerns ranging from the building’s lack of parking spaces to the effects of construction noise on a next door theater, the project was subjected to some 20 hearings and review meetings as the approval process dragged out over a 10-year period, according to the landowner, Mark Rutherford. After getting through eight different board votes to win city approval, it was challenged again by a neighborhood lawsuit.
“It demonstrated an aversion to new housing, coupled with an expensive planning process, topped off with arbitrary decisions,” Wiener wrote in a 2014 op-ed.
Local inhabitants like things just the way they are. Local politicians get re-elected by keeping their constituents happy. Low income housing is an intrusion on established neighborhood norms.
[Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment] said the state needed both affordable and market-rate housing near transit to reverse California’s tendency toward suburban sprawl. “We have to go full bore by building as much transit-oriented housing as possible.”
That's the goal of low income housing advocates and the purpose of Wiener's bill. So what's the problem?
Opponents have declared the move “a war on local planning” that would unleash a huge wave of uncontrolled, private development and have unintended consequences, including gentrification and displacement of inner city minority populations. A Los Angeles city councilman said it could make beach neighborhoods look like “Dubai 10 years later” and Dick Platkin, a former Los Angeles city planner, said allowing eight-story towers around all transit stations would enforce a “one-size-fits-all” solution.
Make beach neighborhoods look like "Dubai 10 years later"? There seems to be a pattern of hysterical over reaction from the local opponents here. Is it possible to get even more hysterical? Of course it is. Back to comparisons with America's genocidal campaign against Native Americans:
Others see Wiener’s plan in even starker terms, underlining the challenge that he and Yimby groups face.
A stakeholders’ coalition in the Crenshaw district, a Los Angeles neighborhood that has historically had a large African American community, charged that the bill would drive up prices.
The result, they said, would be the displacement of low-income residents on the scale of the Trail of Tears that followed President Andrew Jackson’s 1830 Indian Removal Act.
“This will be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Damien Goodmon, director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.
They lost me there. I'm not sure how additional low income housing results in higher prices and displacement of low income residents. The unstated parenthetical seems to be that Wiener's legislation will result in gentrification, a very legitimate problem in low income neighborhoods.
The Guardian is doing a masterful job in this continuing series. Be sure to check out the links to additional stories in this year long project:
Outside in America is a year-long series on homelessness in the western US. The project focuses on people on the frontline of a devastating crisis and enables readers to take action to help solve the problem.