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November 21, 2009

Comments

midtown miscreant

for every murder at a section 8 building, there are a 20 or more that happen elsewhere in the city. To me that says the problem isnt section 8 so much as it is the usual reasons. Poverty, poor education, drugs, law enforcement and gangs.

Brent

I don't necessarily disagree MM -- although I think you've completely underestimated the problem with Section 8 housing in the city.

The major problem is poverty and poor education (this leads to the OTHER problems which are the drugs and gangs, and the need for law enforcement).

Any time you concentrate large numbers of low income, poorly educated people in a small area, there will be problems with crime.

While many of KC's neighborhoods truly have to have the social problems solved to fix the problems. But this high concentration is being MANDATED by the government and subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

Go to the link below -- in it, I showed the KCMO Homicide map from earlier this year and then put arrows to each of the aggravated assault hot spots that was centered on a project-based Section 8 building in the Central Patrol.

http://btoellner.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/01/creating-modern-day-ghettos.html

Yes, the real problem is poor education and poverty -- but consolidating it escalates the problem.

This is the 5th murder this year along this stretch of Armour Blvd alone this year...it is time to quit ignoring the realities that policy is causing at least part of the problem.

Robyne

why is deconcentration the only solution? What if that is not possible right now? What other options are you considering to stem the tide of violence and death in your neighborhood?

Brent

Robyne,

I know what you're fishing for here, but the city MUST work on deconcentrating this. It isn't going to solve all the problems, by far, but we cannot simply ignore the problem. There are another 1/2 dozen apartment buildings that are up for renewal. If we do nothing, we'll be dealing with another 25 years of the centralization -- and that's unacceptable.

Yes, there are dozens of other things that need to be done beyond just decentralizing all of the Section 8. Yes, we need to continue to improve our schools, improve transit options so jobs are accessible in other parts of the metro, inprove the social structures in neighborhoods, help adults get educations so they can get be employable -- etc. And yes, I am involved in an after-school program that helps inner-city youth.

But if we send these kids from after-school programs into violent apartment builidngs, where they are surrounded by crime, drugs and violence, then the margin of error for them will be zero.

We all make mistakes as kids -- but for most of us, one bad decision doesn't land us in jail, or dead -- but that isn't the case for these kids in many cases. And the more we can push for diverse neighborhoods instead of concentrating our poverty, the more margin for error there will be for these kids.

Otherwise the cycle will repeat itself. And I'm a little disappointed that you don't see that.

Joe Medley

Brent didn't pull this idea out of his nether regions. There's been a belief for many years among those experienced in the area of low income housing that concentrating poverty gives you a net increase in crime over what you would get if the same population were dispersed over a wide geographic area. The concentration effect is particularly true of high-rise buildings such as those on Armour Boulevard.

This fact is so well established and recognized that it is against HUD policy to concentrate low income housing.

The only reason we still have it is because of another HUD rule that allows City Hall to renew existing contracts.

I'm not a lawyer, but I wonder if a state or federal law against concentrating could trump a contract. Since deconcentration is already a fait accompli in the rest of the country, I wouldn't think such a law would be hard to pass.

d

In 30 years, I think people will look back at section-8 based projects and the public housing project which came before them as a kind reinvented post 1960s segregation. Complete with the complacency of middle-class whites and backed by the federal government together with real-estate developers.

Brent

d,

Ideally people would be able to recognize that now.

d

Brent,

I fear people won't see it for awhile, because it's so often hidden from the middle class... as most of them have long since sprawled to third or forth-ring suburbs, and now out to the exurbs.

Perhaps in 30 years, people will also think of suburban sprawl as both the largest mis-investment of wealth in mankind's history and an enabler of aforementioned segregation.

Eric

As a case worker who is continually helping Kansas City's homeless try to find safe and affordable housing options, I've really been engaging with your recent posts about the problems of concentrated section 8 housing. I want to thank you for your research and advocacy.

While discussing your post with a colleague, I was informed of some research done in Memphis, TN. You can read the article here:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/memphis-crime

It discusses Memphis' plan to tear down the section 8 housing and provide housing vouchers as an alternative. (Kansas City's public housing and section 8 voucher list is 3 years long now if you are a low-priority tenant.) Instead of solving the problem, however, the data seem to show that crime simply moved where the section 8 residents moved. It is truly disappointing. Unfortunately the article did not propose any good alternatives.

The article is 15 pages long, but I was wondering if you might peruse it and give me some of your feedback.

Brent

Eric,

Thanks for reading and being involved. I first read the Atlantic Monthly article about a year or so ago when I first started reading about this subject. I think there are some key points from the article that I want to bring up.

1) It's worth noting that pretty much everyone interviewed for the article agrees that high concentrations of Section 8 housing -- particularly in vertical highrise buildings -- is no good. The problem remains, what are viable solutions.

2) Breaking up the project-based Section 8 is no good if the poverty just remains consolidated somewhere else. It is keeping it from being concentrated that is crucial.

3) Many of Memphis's problems stemmed from a lack of a plan for what the voucher-based system would look like. This is why it is essential for KC to build a comprehensive plan for what low-income housing looks like for the city without the project-based Section 8.

4) Memphis may be the single worst city to use as a case study. Most people I've talked to agree that any community (which can really be defined as small or as large as you want) that has a poverty rate at around 25-30% starts having their social structure break down where there just are enough resources to sustain the community. Memphis has a poverty rate of around 27% (KCMO's is around 17%)-- so even if everyone living below the poverty line was completely evenly distributed, they would still struggle to maintain an adequate social structure in Memphis.

I should probably write a whole post on this -- although I'm far from the best person to be leading this part of the conversation. But the comprehensive housing plan for Kansas City has to be very thorough -- because housing itself is not an end-all solution. Some things it needs to include:

1) Adequate public transit throughout the city so pepole can live anywhere and still have access to jobs, hospitals, etc.

2) Community-based support throughout the metro for low-income people -- being sure there is neighborhood support from churches, schools and other groups is essential.

I'm sure there is a lot more to this -- but I'm sure there is enough information out there to come up with a solid solution. For sure, the current arrangement is failing.

sheson

the problem I see in our black/ urban communities, is yes education or lack there of. And parenting, not proverty.... we have always been poor.
fathers are leaving young mothers with little support, then raising thugs and loud mouths with no respect for family community or self, teaching them to value money and rebelion, crussing the white man, instead of the opportunities of education and the value of hard works or life. Parents or not being responsible for their children. Respect is not earned but giving mutually among humanity. sucess/failur is not born but created

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