Two weeks ago, I wrote post about crime that was apparently a little controversial (apparently demographic statistics are controversial).
In my searching for some of the crime numbers, I spent a little time with the KCMO Quarterly Homicide Report. In a quick glance at the maps on the quarterly report, one thing instantly jumped out at me -- a huge red dot that indicated an "aggravated assault hot spot".
The arrow on the left is pointing to the hot spot that caught my eye. The spot is in my neighborhood, and has been a bit of a sore spot for us.
The site, basically the entire three blocks west of Troost on Armour, contains the Bainbridge Apartment building (pictured below).
Three years ago, the Bainbridge was cleared out for renovation. The buildings were remodeled and are beautiful on the outside. That all seems great.
The problem is that the apartment was renewed by the city into 200+ units of Section 8 apartments.
Let me stop here for a second and say that I don't necessarily have a problem with Section 8 housing. I do think that everyone deserves to have a roof over their head and sometimes, government assistance may be necessary. The current HUD policies for Section 8 housing allow for up to 20% of the all secion 8 housing to be "project based", and the other 80% or must be "tenant based". Tenant-based Sectoin 8 allows an individual to live virtually anywhere they want in the private sector (that is at market rate +20% or lower in price), with the individual paying 30% of their income and the government subsizing the rest. "Project-based" Section 8 designates entire apartment buildings or complexes for use for Section 8 (that all are below market rate).
Doing large-scale, project-based Section 8 housingdoes not benefit anyone.
The whole idea is very archaic -- based all the way back to when Section 8 housing was formed in the 1930s. Think about it, we would never dream of fencing off a 10-block area of the city and designating that as an area for Section 8 housing. The very idea harkens back to the days of creating "ghettos". No one benefits from that. Putting the ghetto all in one building does not change the concept, it is just a form of verticle segregation.
I've talked to many of the residents who live there when we're out on our walks. Many of the people who live in these units are great people, nice people, who are just trying to get by after life has dealt them a tough blow: health problems for them or a spouse that bankrupted them and kept them out of work, a husband that was the bread-winner getting killed or leaving the family, a home that burned down without the proper insurance, etc. But the good people that are there are being held hostage by the people are using the housing to deal drugs and other crimes.
Not long ago we talked with a grandmother who no longer feels comfortable having both of her grandchildren over at the same time, because she doesn't feel like she can keep a close enough eye on both of them at the same time to prevent something bad from happening. The large number of low-income people, in such a small area, has created too much crime for her to feel comfortable spending time with her own grandchildren.
The idea that concentrations of Section 8 housing increases crime is hardly a new one. At least one recent study in Memphis, while somewhat controversial, links Section 8 housing to crime.
And yet, just 3 years ago, Kansas City, MO renewed 300+ units of Section 8, all in one building -- a 1930s notions - in spite of evidence that is not good for the residents or the neighborhood.
So when I saw the big red dot on the Bainbridge, I took notice. I wasn't surprised mind you, as it is commonplace to see police cars parked out in front of the building. But I was struck by it. So I wondered, what other big red dots were large pockets of Section 8 housing? So I spent the next couple of weeks driving around visiting big red dots on the map, and doing searches looking for apartment buildings and complexes that appeared to be project-based Section 8 housing. I won't guarantee that this is 100% accurate or 100% inclusive, But here is the patrol zone crime map (the red dots indicate aggrevated assault hot-spots) and the arrows point to the ones that I have identified as being centered over project-based Section 8 housing:
One other note on this, it does appear that at least a couple of the dots are over hospitals -- which may mean that the crime is actually getting reported at the hospital and going on the map where the crime is reported, and maybe not where the crime occurred. But at least 7 of the concentrations appear to be at Section 8 hosuing complexes.
My point of all of this isn't to say we should get rid of Section 8 Housing. However, we do need to re-evaluate the idea of project-based programs. Project-based Section 8 is the equivelent to creating a modern-day ghetto.
Doing this does not benefit the good people that live there that feel like hostages in their own homes.
And it certainly appears to be making for increased police work.
Kansas City has problems with crime. All cities do. But we really need to re-look at government policies that are helping to CREATE problems - specifically HUD policies that not only allow for, but mandate, ghetto-ing low-income people into certain areas of the city.
Two other notes on this:
1) Since I'm sure I'll hear this. This is not a case of someone who is trying to be NIMBY. I have no problem living in neighborhoods with lower-income people. If I minded, I'd move to South Overland Park or Lenexa or something. I love the diversity, but don't love the crime. I'm trying to not mandate moving the problems to ANYONE'S neighborhood. I'm trying to spread out the housing to virtually assure that some poor people will live in most of the city's neighborhoods -- which is a better scenerio for everyone and not create problems for anyone.
2) The problems seem to be 100% "Family" based section 8 projects. The correlation does not apply to apartment buildings designated as Section 8 "elderly" or "medical".