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Is Housing the Key to Reducing Poverty?

September 7, 2015
Plain English Version
Lower-income neighborhood in Baltimore, Md.

Lower-income neighborhood in Baltimore, Md.

Events in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. are making people think about inner city problems. Poor people live with more crime. Schools do not educate well. Many people are without work. There are few stores. What role does housing play?

For decades, government policy was to give people more choice about where to live. The key programs were section 8 vouchers and affordable housing. Section 8 gave people more money for rent. Many landlords took the vouchers. Affordable housing lowers the amount of rent tenants will pay for their apartments.

The programs created more housing in that people could live in. It did not increase housing for lower-income families in middle-income neighborhoods. Political opposition continued to keep low-income families out.

Gentrifying integrates neighborhoods. But it usually means higher-income families moving into lower-income areas. Usually, the poorer families cannot pay the higher rents that follow. Gentrifying does not help solve the housing problem.

Some questions experts ask: If poor people move into better housing, won’t that leave even poorer people behind? What happens if higher income people move out when lower-income people move in? What can the government do to change the way things work?

There are many areas where people with different income levels and different backgrounds live. They are usually successful in creating better lives for the people.However, when poverty is deep in a community, not much can be done in a short time. And what can poor people do to make their entry into better neighborhoods more acceptable?

A big question is what should the governments do? They can help build housing in places where people want to live. The government can make it affordable. They can invest in job training and encourage businesses to open.

A great deal of public money goes into housing. However, in the U.S. people vote with their feet. They like to live in good school districts. They like to be around people who look like them. The large number of immigrants moving to America has also influenced housing decisions.

Source: The New York Times September 5, 2015

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