Seeds: One of the many organizations created by FDR’s New Deal programs was the Public Works Administration, and after its inception the government started to create subsidized housing for poverty stricken citizens on a large scale. Once the Great Depression ended and the United States’ economy recovered, the program fizzled out, but the legacy remained. For decades, the government created subsidized housing units (a.k.a. the government pays for part of the cost of construction) to offer the poorest Americans a place to live. These units are colloquially called “the projects” and have led to a high concentration of poverty in urban areas, often leading to increased crime rates and a much lower quality of life. Starting in the ‘90s, the projects started being torn down in an effort to make the neighborhoods safer.
Core: Over the last few years, there has been a push for the destruction of the projects, though there are still over one million government subsidized homes today. People are concerned that if these subsidized houses are demolished, residents will be left homeless. Housing developers are legally required to help the families relocate, and the family has a right to return once the development has been refurbished, but it is estimated that only one in three do so. Moving between housing units can be dangerous due to gang turf wars, and the new homes are often more expensive. The typically utilitarian argument for gentrification is that quality of life for a greater number of people will increase significantly, even if these people are displaced.
Skin: Recently, there has a been a push for middle-class subsidized housing in areas where the affluence is abundant, such as San Francisco. The Palo-Alto City council wants to budget funds for housing for people earning between $150,000 and $200,000, which angers many of the thousands of low-income individuals on the waiting lists for public housing in other areas.
Leaves: Often the gentrification that has caused the demolition of the projects has led to inter-class tensions. Middle and Upper class families may not want to live near lower-income residents because higher crime rates are often associated with poorer groups of people. However, the lower-income residents still need a place to live. This has yet to be an extremely hot-topic issue in the presidential campaigns, with Hillary Clinton announcing a plan to the combat the issue, and Donald Trump not addressing the issue.
Food For Thought: What do you think that the government should do about public housing? Do you think that gentrification “is the new colonialism?” Do you think any of the residents have a good plan?