Are Housing Projects Worth the Investment?

Already in 2021, we have read breaking news about well over a dozen housing projects being built (or rebuilt) in inner cities. The price tag is in the billions, but the cost of these housing projects is said by many to be much higher than just money. One has to understand that all of today's housing projects are built inside of densely populated cities that are already dealing with higher levels of crime, worse performing schools, and shoddy infrastructure that makes transportation a nightmare. Flooding issues, sewer and water issues, and pollution also complicate things. Yet, time and again, when the government goes to build free housing, they build it smack dab in the middle of a city that's already experiencing multiple problems. Then they stand back and act shocked when the housing project itself deals with drugs and crime and property damage.

This leads many to ask if building new housing projects in America is even worth the investment in time and money that it costs. Some of these projects are very large, and you have over 3,000 people living on top of one another on only a few acres of land. It's like an open-air prison, in many respects, and few ever end up getting out.

Is there a solution to this problem? One first has to understand how housing projects became a problem in the first place.

Some Economists Picture a Better Way

This is a very tough, tangled, nuanced topic to tackle. It's a topic that stands out as very offensive to a lot of people, no matter how politely and matter-of-factly one speaks about it. Though it is a fact that housing projects for minorities are an important topic in America, and it's a far bigger disservice to not speak about them at all. Basically, under Johnson and the Great Society, African American community leaders were asked where their people would like to have government housing built. Rather than opting for rural areas, these community leaders urged government to place these housing projects inside of cities, where black Americans would have access to transportation, groceries, medical care, and most importantly schools and places of employment. It made perfect sense, and the government started to build projects inside of cities.

Fast forward all these years later, today's African American community leaders, advocacy groups, and social media personalities are claiming that it's systemic racism to have projects built inside of cities, because of pollution and crime. They are claiming that government wants there to be crime, and that's why they place black Americans in the middle of cities, in a dense urban population.

This is a sort of a damned if you do or don't issue, in many respects. Though most people understand the frustrations of the black community who live in these places, since they are so rife with crime, fatherlessness, unemployment, broken schools, etc. Some economists claim that the only way to solve these inner city problems while still offering public housing is to move the public housing out of the inner cities entirely. They claim that all of these new projects should be placed in towns that are more rural, instead of inside of densely populated urban centers, and that will solve a lot.

Though this isn't close to their entire plan. They also suggest that a more trailer-style of home, instead of stacked apartments, should be offered to black Americans. And not only as Section 8 renters but as homeowners. A plot of land and a standalone home. The feeling is that while it would cost more money, the pride in home ownership and being away from dense populations of crime, would keep government from having to reinvest. Understand that a new housing project going up in the Bronx is just replacing an old one that fell into a state of disrepair. It's the same story every time. So for one housing project, the government ends up spending 10-times the cost just to keep updating it and tearing it down and rebuilding.

Economists believe the solution is in more investment of home ownership. Black Americans, or any impoverished American in this type of setting has much more of an incentive to keep their homes in better condition, while the proximity issues aren't nearly as bad. People aren't stuffed together in boxes, and they can breathe and expand and live. These are the solutions that many want instead of just building yet another new housing project.

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