How Corrupt Is The New York "Affordable Housing" Game?

How Corrupt Is The New York "Affordable Housing" Game?

In New York City we have a dizzying array of taxpayer-subsidized “affordable housing” schemes: low income public housing; mixed income public housing; “limited equity” co-ops; the so-called “Mitchell-Lama” program; 80/20 and 70/30 “inclusionary zoning” requirements; and plenty more. Something around 1 million people live in one type or another of these subsidized projects. That would be about 1 person out of eight in the City.

The whole idea with these schemes is that each resident pays substantially less than what would be the market rent for the same unit. After all, by hypothesis, we have a “crisis” of housing cost, where market rate apartments are priced too high for many people to afford. Therefore, we need politicians to provide taxpayer-financed subsidies to create a large tier of the “affordable” apartments. The actual rents for each “affordable" apartment are then determined by a political rather than a market process. In the case of the low-income projects, the rent is set as 30% of the tenant’s income, meaning that a tenant with no income could pay as little as nothing in rent, even when the apartment is in a desirable location. Other apartments in different programs first have a rent set, and then are allocated to people whose income has been determined to be appropriate for that rent. Sometimes these politically-determined rents might be relatively close to a market rent for a comparable apartment in the same area; but other times the “affordable” apartments are located in desirable areas, and the local market rent for a comparable apartment could exceed the “affordable” rent by a factor of five, ten, or even more. Such disparities occur, for example, in desirable Manhattan neighborhoods, as well as in waterfront areas in Manhattan and also Brooklyn.

So we have large numbers of apartments that would have market rents of perhaps $3000 up to even $10,000 per month, going for perhaps $500 to $1500. Of course, long waiting lists develop for these subsidized apartments. Some designated political gatekeeper gets to decide who gets the next apartment when it becomes available. Now, what is the chance that such a process can proceed for years and decades without pervasive corruption? . . .

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The New York Times Does "What Went Wrong In Venezuela?"

In the past couple of weeks, the New York Times has had two big articles about Venezuela, describing the horrific conditions that now exist there, and analyzing what went wrong. On May 14, it was “How Venezuela Stumbled to the Brink of Collapse”; and on May 17 it was “Venezuela’s Collapse Is the Worst Outside of War in Decades, Economists Say.”

It will not surprise you that the word “socialism” does not appear in either article. But the stupidity here goes far beyond just not mentioning the subject of “socialism.” The affirmative effort in these articles is to somehow shift the blame for Venezuela’s economic collapse to something other than socialism, whether it be “poor governance,” corruption, or general incompetence. The May 17 piece does have a reference to “misguided policies,” but they never say what those “misguided policies” may be. Widespread nationalizations of industry? Massive public housing schemes? Heavily subsidized food and household products? “Free” healthcare? None of these are mentioned.

But of course they do mention — multiple times — the Trump administration’s sanctions, just imposed in the past couple of months, as if those have something meaningful to do with a 60-80% collapse of GDP that has taken place over a decade or more.

From a summary in the May 17 piece: . . .

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So Who Are The Stupid Ones Down In Australia?

On Saturday, there was a big national election in Australia. All seats for the parliament were up. The incumbent Prime Minister, running for re-election, was Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party (we would call them conservatives). The opposition Labor Party, whose candidate for PM was a guy named Bill Shorten, explicitly ran a campaign focused on the issue of climate change.

Going into the election, all polls had Labor ahead (although some by margins as small as 2-3 points). But in the end, Morrison and the Liberals (in coalition with other small parties) won a clear, if somewhat narrow, victory.

Labor clearly thought that running on the issue of “climate change” was the sure route to victory. They frequently referred to the contest as the “Climate Change Election.” They accused the Liberals of lacking any credible plan to attack climate change. And they devised detailed proposals that they called their “Climate Change Action Plan.” Here is a summary; and here is the full Plan. The idea was to force massive cuts in Australians’ CO2 emissions in an effort to “save the planet.” From the Overview in the Plan:

Failure to act on climate change will expose the Australian people and environment to devastating costs for our economy, society, security, health and environment. Experts at the ANU, University of Melbourne and CSIRO estimate failing to keep global warming to below two degrees will eventually cost the average Australian household $14,000 per year.

The promised “action on climate change” boiled down to a forced reduction in Australia’s CO2 emissions by 45% (on 2005 levels) by 2030, and “net zero” emissions by 2050. And how was that to be accomplished? . . .

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New York Gets Crazier And Crazier Every Day

We last examined the total insanity of New York City progressivism back on April 23, with a post titled “Mayor de Blasio Sets Out To Accelerate New York City’s Decline.” The particular focus of that post was a proposal from our Mayor to impose onerous efficiency standards on office buildings as the latest progressive idea to “save the planet” from the scourge of climate change. If you thought that that proposal just had to represent the ultimate low point of progressive craziness, and that it couldn’t possibly go any lower, then you just haven’t been paying attention. In the last few weeks, the new emergency rules and bans that must be imposed immediately by government to save the world have been coming ever faster and faster. You almost can’t learn about one before the next one is upon you, each one somehow more urgent in the case made for it, more burdensome in its application to the citizenry, and yet even more trivial in potential effect (if any at all) on the planet or the environment or whatever it is we are trying to “save.”

First up, the package of six bills covered in that April post, going by the collective name of the “Climate Mobilization Act,” promptly passed the City Council and became law. The CurbedNY website provided a summary of the bills on April 22, including this gem:

Come 2024, the legislation mandates landlords move toward cutting their building emissions 40 percent by 2030, and would put the city on a path toward reducing its carbon emissions by a whopping 80 percent by 2050.

Of course, the new law puts the steepest burdens on the buildings that are already the most efficient (e.g., modern skyscrapers), while exempting huge categories of buildings that are the least efficient (e.g., City buildings, low income public housing, rent regulated apartment buildings, single family houses). Some City Council members took the occasion to make totally delusional statements about what they think will be the effect of their handiwork. For example, one of the prime sponsors was a guy named Costa Constantinides from Astoria, Queens. His comment:

“There are talks about the Rockaways, Coney Island, and neighborhoods in Staten Island literally being wiped off the map by the end of this century if we do not act,” said [Constantinides]. . . . “No single-handed policy can completely reverse the effects of climate change, but this policy, when enacted, will be the largest emissions reduction policy in the history of New York City or any city anywhere.”

Or this from City Council Speaker (and my own representative) Corey Johnson:

“Our planet is closing in on a breaking point … we have to transition from investing in fossil fuel infrastructure to clean, renewable energy,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said during the vote. “We have to act decisively and we have to act now.

Do these numbskulls actually think that by upgrading the energy efficiency of a few office buildings in New York they can somehow affect the level of the oceans? . . .

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Frances Fox Piven, Icon Of The Left

In the New York Times, they have a section that goes by the name “New York” on weekdays and “Metropolitan” on Sundays. This section contains next to no useful information about what is going on in New York and/or the surrounding area. Even local news staples like murders and fires rarely get covered. And if you want to learn about the latest corruption in City government, or important new laws coming out of the state legislature, you mostly have to look elsewhere.

But they have to fill the space with something. A fair characterization of the large part of it would be “support for our team.” To illustrate, yesterday’s “Metropolitan” section was totally dominated by a single article that contained nothing about relevant local news. Instead, it was, to put it mildly, a fawning profile of a woman named Frances Fox Piven. The headline was “This 86-Year-Old Radical May Save (or Sink) the Democrats.”

Have you heard of Frances Fox Piven? She first came to my attention way back in the 1960s, when she had become one of the early enlistees in the “War on Poverty,” and went around leading loud welfare “rights” demonstrations. She’s been doing variations of the same ever since. But I can’t say that I have closely followed her career. This Times profile fills in many details, and in the process makes clear that Ms. Piven is a true archetype of the species sometimes known as the Upper West Side progressive radical. I thought that readers here might like an introduction.

Here is how the Times chooses to introduce its piece: . . .

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Whatever Happened To Obamacare?

My post of a few days ago addressed what is to me one of the oddest features of the progressive project, namely that existing government programs that were supposed to solve some social problem, but then utterly failed, just get completely forgotten — even as spending on those programs continues and indeed generally increases forever on autopilot. Meanwhile, the underlying social problem persists, and the response of the progressive politician is to cease all mention of the prior programs (and certainly never to acknowledge their failure), and instead to propose yet another new program and yet additional new spending to solve the same problem. Surely, this newly-proposed program is going to be the one that will finally work.

That prior post specifically addressed government job training programs. There were 47 of them (by one count) in 2014, when then-VP Joe Biden got the task from President Obama of finally solving the problem of inadequately-trained workers. Of course, Biden never acknowledged the disaster of the existing 47 failed programs, and instead proposed another new federal job training program and $600 million of new spending (sorry, “investments”).

And the job training situation is of course only a microcosm of the broader federal “anti-poverty” effort, where scores of programs and nearly a trillion dollars in annual federal spending never make the slightest dent in the problem of “poverty” as defined. . . .

But surely the most striking example of this phenomenon is in the healthcare area. There, all the talk among the current Democratic candidates is of finally bringing “universal healthcare” to America. . . .

But wait a minute. Whatever happened to Obamacare? Wasn’t that the be-all-and-end-all program that was supposed to bring “everyone access to medical care”? . . .

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