Shelter Shorts

Section 8: More to Come Still Not Enough

After a three-year drought, Congress has approved new Section 8 vouchers – 50,000 for FY ’99. And in September, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) reopened its tenant-based Section 8 registration list for the first time since 1990. But don’t break out the champagne yet.

“We expect around 100,000 people, maybe more, to apply,” said HACLA Section 8 Director Steve Renahan (Business Wire; 09/14/98). “But we only have about 2,000 to 3,000 certificates available annually due to lack of federal funding.We are trying to reach as many low-income populations as we can to let them know because this will be their first chance in eight years and may be their last chance for a long time.”

A recent study in Missouri also reported a long wait for Section 8 vouchers, along with a decreasing number of available public housing and project-based Section 8 units. Kansas City had the longest waiting list in Missouri – 10,544 applicants for 4,603 certificates and vouchers – according to the report from Housing Comes First, an advocacy group in St. Louis.

Housing Comes First also found that tenants often have difficulty using Section 8 vouchers to rent private housing. The study, “All Vouchered Up and Nowhere to Go,” does point to an increase in the number of tenants able to use their Section 8 subsidies in Kansas City – from 30 percent last year to 60 percent this year. But overall, the report finds that in Missouri, as elsewhere, most cities have far fewer Section 8 subsidies than applicants.

Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, George McQuade, 213-252-1862; Housing Comes First, Laura Barrett, 314-367-2993.

 

Moving To Opportunity?

Most low-income families leaving Chicago’s public housing behind with the help of tenant-based Section 8 subsidies are trading one poor African American city neighborhood for another, an investigation by The Chicago Reporter (July-August ’98) has found.

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) provided Section 8 subsidies to 1,044 families whose public housing units have been slated for closure or demolition since 1995. Most Section 8 recipients, including many who are not from public housing, rent in low-income, minority neighborhoods. But even more former CHA residents are relocating there.

According to the Reporter’s analysis of data obtained from CHAC Inc., the private firm that administers Chicago’s Section 8 program; and Claritas Inc., a market research firm:

  • Nearly 80 percent of CHA families relocated in the last three years are in Chicago census tracts that are at least 90 percent black, compared to 70 percent of the 19,095 families in the general Section 8 population.
  • More than 69 percent of the former CHA households are in areas with a per capita income below $10,000, compared to just more than half of the city’s other Section 8 recipients.
  • Of the 30 Chicago census tracts receiving the most CHA families, only six have per capita incomes of more than $10,000, and all but two are at least 97 percent black.

While CHA Deputy Executive Director Ed Moses said Section 8 recipients are free to move anywhere in the city or suburbs, Paul Fischer, a professor of politics at Lake Forest College and author of two studies on Chicago-area Section 8 housing said that “whatever indicator you use, the relocated residents are living in less desirable census tracts.” Whatever efforts CHA has made to expand housing choices have failed, he said.

Affirmative Action’s Benefits in Black and White

A major, recently-released study by two former Ivy League presidents of the records and experiences of tens of thousands of students over 20 years concludes that affirmative action policies have led to the creation of the backbone of the emergent black middle class and demonstrated the value of integration to their white classmates. A rich database compiled from the nation’s elite colleges will likely recast the debate about affirmative action policies.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation financed study broadens the notion of merit beyond tests and grades and hails affirmative action less as a means of overcoming past discrimination and more as a way to insure a healthier future for blacks and whites. The authors conclude that “fairness” in admissions based solely on a narrowly defined grade-based system fails to express what the institution is trying to accomplish in a larger context: substantial benefits through the civic and leadership activities of its graduates and the contributions the schools themselves make to a goals of a democratic society. This capacity to contribute to learning through diversity and strongly documented post-graduate achievement far outweighs the potential for “displacement” of otherwise qualified white applicants, the study holds. The authors counter such backlash with an analogy to parking spaces for handicapped drivers: eliminating the reserved spot would have statistically minuscule effect on the majority of non-disabled drivers while heavily affecting the minority.

The report, by William G. Bower, Princeton economist, and Derek Bok, Harvard political scientist, is published by Princeton University Press.

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