Advocate‎ > ‎

Federal Housing Policy

The Election of President Trump and a Republican controlled Congress could result in big changes in housing policy
Right now there's a lot of "what ifs" and not too many facts, RHINO will be trying to concentrate on actual proposals that will affect housing and renters in the coming years.

HUD in chaos. Facing extinction?

While the headlines focus on expensive furniture, Carson family member influence peddling, a series of policy postponements, and mixed mission messages, the underlying concern about HUD should be the future of this struggling "third tier" agency. How ironic that, in the midst of a real housing crisis across the US, the Federal agency that should be addressing housing needs is in chaos. Doubling the irony is that a President whose career includes housing development is fomenting the chaos by inaction, inattention and indecision.

HUD was created by the Johnson administration in 1965 to consolidate the work of existing housing programs with new Great Society initiatives like Fair Housing and Urban Redevelopment. Since then, HUD's record has been a spotty mixture of corruption, benign neglect, and ambitious social engineering as each successive administration put its ideological stamp on the mission. One consistent feature has been the presence of the FIRED (Finance, Investor, Real Estate, and Development) industry which work tirelessly to preserve their pet programs. The result is a succession of programs layered one on top of the other with more and increasingly complex regulations. Now, even the FIRED community is giving up on HUD programs. A growing rental housing market is lifting all boats and the industry doesn't need HUD programs to make money.

At its founding in 1965 HUD had 14,500 employees. By 2014 that number shrunk to 8416 and currently stands around 7400. Compare HUD's staffing level to Health and Human Services (HHS) which has 10x the number of employees. Given the Trump administration's interest in reducing agency employment by attrition and an apparent policy of hiring "politicals" (here and here) to fill newlyn created administrative positions at HUD, the impact on HUD staff morale should be obvious. This past summer, Alec MacGillis wrote in ProPublica "If the great radical conservative dream was, in Grover Norquist’s famous words, to 'drown government in a bathtub,' then this was what the final gasps of one department might look like."

Take heart, housing advocates. The end of HUD could be the beginning of a new 21st century housing policy. Hardest hit metro areas are already stepping forward with innovative solutions that build on coalitions of academic, political and consumer insights.The next President may be well advised to scrap HUD and start from scratch to address housing needs. That means ending what's left of legacy programs like public housing, project based rental assistance, and Housing Choice Vouchers including the myriad of "special needs" housing programs for veteran, HIV, and family reunification. (Housing as social work).

In their place, a universal means tested housing subsidy program might make sense, maybe run through Internal Revenue Service like the current Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, but without feeding the developers along the way. Instead of more "special need" programs, universal renter credits could permit service agencies, health providers, community cooperatives, and energy advocates to compete for the loyalty of tenants who are financially empowered with a renter credit. It might look like Capitalism for the Masses.

New programs that don't spend a dollar to account for a dime may be the future of housing assistance. Restricting oversight to measuring the outcomes not the process makes sense. Homes for All is supporting "...permanent affordable and democratic (PAD) development that meet what they outline as ‘Just Housing Principles’: 1) Community Control 2) Affordability 3) Inclusivity 4) Permanence and 5) Health and Sustainability." With HUD out of the way, the new ideas won't have to build on the legacy of its past.

At the same time, Congress could end the bureaucratic divisions between rural (USDA) and urban (HUD) development. Local conditions, not arbitrary population density definitions, should guide development support. Today's rural high school student is tomorrow's urban pioneer, and a decade from now a suburban homeowner.

posted March 19, 2018

and, there's more

Ben Carson accused of 'witch-hunt' by senior member of his department

What's News?

March 13, 2018, Washington Post, What is “burrowing in”? "It’s the unofficial but widely used term for political appointees getting jobs in the civil service. While appointees serve at the pleasure of the administration in power, career employees are supposed to be hired based on merit, and they have much stronger job protections."
See examples here: 

"Ben Carson: We're changing HUD from a bureaucracy to an efficient organization." 
     From an op ed in The Hill "Among the tidbits: "Reimagine the way HUD works: These reforms are internal and process-based. We want to organize and deliver HUD services more effectively to the American people, which means enhancing the working conditions and training at HUD itself, while eliminating improper payments and waste, fraud and abuse." the 1990's HUD was "reinvented" and in the 2010's HUD was "transformed" and now "reimagined."
posted September 22, 2017

 Notes & Links