Of all federal agencies, probably the most destructive dollar for dollar is the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Its business is creating and perpetuating poverty traps. The idea is to take people currently poor and offer them a deal with the devil whereby they can have an in-kind gift of a subsidized apartment for life, the highly-illiquid value of which does not count in income, in return for accepting a set of incentives that makes it almost impossible for them to rise up the income ladder. And thus we have the HUD-supported New York City Housing Authority, supposedly started as a means for the poor to begin to escape poverty, eighty years later reporting a poverty rate of residents of 51% and a turnover rate of 3%. Motto: "We warehouse poor people for life!"
OK, you're an HUD bureaucrat and you want more funding to grow your agency. How to deflect attention from this obvious disaster and try to claim the moral high ground? Easy! Here's the official narrative: the poor are kept poor not by your own programs that intentionally trap them in poverty, but rather by evil discriminating towns in rich areas that have excluded the poor. If only the poor could live in someplace fancy like, say, some upscale New York suburbs, they'd quickly be on the road to success!
And thus we have HUD, with the aid of Southern District of New York prosecutor Preet Bharara, currently turning its sights on Westchester County -- the mostly upscale area immediately North of New York City -- with accusations that it is dragging its feet in building some new subsidized units that somehow this time are going to succeed in helping the poor escape poverty. Howard Husock of the Manhattan Institute has a report today on the National Review site. It seems that Westchester County agreed with HUD to build some subsidized housing, but it's not getting built fast enough to satisfy the bureaucrats, so they are threatening fines and sanctions:
The Justice Department (specifically, the office of the nation's currently most prominent U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara of New York's Southern District) last week threatened to fine the county $60,000 a month and to force it to put more than $1 million in escrow against potential future fines. It's all the result of a lawsuit filed in 2006 by a New York City-based nonprofit called the Anti-Discrimination Center. . . . To resolve the suit, Westchester pledged to use $50 million of its own funds, along with HUD money it receives, to build some 750 units of new subsidized housing . . . .
Now it's not like Westchester is some lily-white hotbed of racial exclusion. According to Husock's article, in a county of about a million residents, Westchester has some 131,000 African Americans and 144,000 Hispanics, both figures rather closely in line with the percentages of those groups in the overall U.S. population. And, Husock points out, some of those members of minority groups reside in "even the wealthiest enclaves." But not enough to satisfy HUD!
So we come to the best part: a particular project in a particular wealthy enclave has become the focus of the prosecutor's ire. That project is in a town with a median family income of $180,000. Yes, it's none other than Chappaqua, home to Bill and Hillary Clinton. (For that matter, Chappaqua is also part of the Town of New Castle, in which also lives New York Governor and former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo.) It seems like Chappaqua has actually agreed to have the units built, but the project is stalled over issues of zoning variances and exactly where the projects will be located.
So a few days ago, County Executive Rob Astorino took the occasion to hold a brief news conference outside the Clinton's mansion. Madame Hillary was actually home, so Astorino asked the nice Secret Service lady if he could go in to see the occupant, but of course he was refused. Here's a clip of a part of the festivities. Astorino posed a series of questions for HIllary, the key one of which was "Does she think that her town is discriminatory?" No answer was forthcoming, but of course that's far from the only question that Hillary has not been answering lately.
Meanwhile, might somebody point out that Manhattan is the wealthiest county in the country by per capita income, and also right there next to all those rich people it has the highest concentration of subsidized housing, and yet somehow none of those poor people ever get out of poverty? If the theory that merely living next to rich people ended poverty were right, New York City would not have a poverty rate 5 plus points above the national average. The fact is that these subsidized housing projects intentionally perpetuate poverty, and this one in Chappaqua, if and when it gets built, will be no different.