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Inclusionary Housing is Sociological Suicide
by Wayne Lusvardi 8/15/07

nclusionary housing is recipe for  sociological suicide in the City of Pasadena.

What is inclusionary housing? It is a law which forces every four new condo buyers or apartment renters to subsidize the price or rent of one low income housing unit in Pasadena. Developers do not pay for inclusionary housing units - they just pass through the costs to new owners and renters. Recpients of inclusionary housing are typically drawn from a pool of applicants often steered to the new inclusionary developments by the politically well-connected. 
In Pasadena and elsewhere inclusionary housing is making developers build luxury condo or apartment units for low  income occupants. Inclusionary housing developments typically have gyms, pools, mini-theaters, built-in high-price grocery stores, and are proximate to public transit stations. Conventional affordable housing is old, small, obsolescent housing with few if any luxuries, and is not near shopping or public transportation.  Inclusionary housing has redefined low income housing as the right to luxury housing.

Guest Contributor
Wayne Lusvardi

Wayne Lusvardi, is a former social worker and low income housing development analyst. He is a real estate appraiser in Pasadena, California and blogs at http://www.pasadenapundit.com

Inclusionary housing developments are invariably located on former commercial-zoned land in downtown or central city areas, not in single family home neighborhoods. Inclusionary housing is thus a reaction to the "Not-In-My-Back-Yard" (NIMBY) politics. In Pasadena that means dumping all the new low income housing into the downtown donut hole surrounded  by single family estate home districts (hence the term "Pasadonuts").  
Inclusionary housing is also a local response to State-mandated low income housing quotas. Such quotas are a bottomless pit and are not based on any objective deficiency of low or moderate income housing. The continual supply of new economic migrants and the bottomless number of people who want to own rather than rent housing makes such a quota meaningless and politicized.   
For example, the U.S. Community Census of 2005 indicates that 24.1% of individuals and 36.6% of families in Pasadena are in poverty, compared to 22% and 26.2% respectively for the State of California. In other words, Pasadena  already is providing more than its fair share of low income housing. There is no low income housing crisis in Pasadena in objective terms, despite highly emotional media and activist portrayals otherwise.

Pasadena is believed to have a deficiency of "workforce" housing for moderate income people. But this deficiency would not exist if the working class had not been pushed out of housing in the first place by politically protected enclaves of economic migrants neighborhoods with the oldest and smallest housing stock. Neither would the homeless have been pushed out onto the streets had flop houses and old motels not also been taken over by economic migrants. The economic migrants who occupy the most affordable housing stock in Pasadena mainly serve the business interests in the tourist, hotel, house painting, and non-union construction industries.     

All of the above facts don't seem to daunt Pasadena's elite inclusionary housing policy advocates including Pasadena's Mayor Bill Bogaard, Councilwoman-real estate broker Margaret McAustin, and the city's housing intelligentsia from sociologist Peter Dreier, to Evangelical housing advocate Jill Shook, to rent control advocate Philip Koebel, or to affordable housing media gate-keeper and editor Larry Wilson of the Star News.  

Inclusionary housing is destructive to mediating institutions.  Mediating structures are defined as "those institutions that stand between the individual in his private life and the large institutions of public life." They are institutions that stand between the lone individual and the Big Business and Big Government. Mediating institutions, such as families, churches, neighborhoods, private schools,  and voluntary associations, make people feel "at home" in society. Unions, boards of education, PTA's, the NAACP, and even nonprofit housing agencies can be mediating institutions. But in Pasadena they have largely been co-opted and corrupted by politicians and plied with government money or lawsuit awards.  Witness the co-optation of the School Board by the shadowy Pasadena Education Foundation (PEF), run by Pasadena's elites.   

Without independent mediating institutions the political order must be secured by coercion rather than consent, making democracy disappear. Without mediating cultural institutions there is only totalitarianism which is nearly impossible to dismantle. Both liberal and conservative politics in Pasadena and elsewhere are blind to mediating structures. But it is government that is the most destructive to such social  institutions.

The markers of social stratification in our society are often said to be Class, Status, and Power.  To liberals it is lack of economic and political power that are the determinants of being poor. To the poor, it is social status within one's mediating group that offsets the economic and other insults to one's dignity and provides empowerment to be able to handle the "hard" world of Big Business and Big Government.  If status cannot be found in impersonal "success" oriented public schools which have no connection to a future trade or job, it will be found in gangs, rap music culture, motorcycle clubs, or the status of motherhood achieved out of wedlock, etc. And it is the lonely young person who is disconnected from mediating social institutions that is most prone to suicide and heavy substance abuse which fuels the underground drug gang  economy, a point made by sociologist Emile Durkheim in his class book Suicide over a century ago.

A wise religious figure once put it this way: "Man does not live by bread (or housing) alone."  

To liberalism the great concern is for the individual, for individual rights, and for justice.  Anything that exists between the individual and government is seen as irrelevant, backward, bigoted, superstitious, and an obstacle to the rational ordering of society.  But liberalism leaves the individual exposed to the Big Government and Big Business, and thus, without a psychological home.  Liberals tend to think that nonprofit agencies filled with professionals can substitute for mediating structures, when they can't. Witness the poor performance and high dropout rate of our public schools, the rise of gang warfare in Pasadena, the  incarceration rate of young Black men, the high out-of-wedlock birth rates of Black children, and the eclipse of neighborhood in certain housing projects and elsewhere.    

Liberal court decisions and social engineering have fractured Black families, destroyed neighborhood schools, pushed churches to the periphery in caring for children and the elderly, and supplanted such institutions with nonprofits beholden to the Democratic political machine. Although the private sector provides about 90% to 95% of the affordable housing in Pasadena (including student housing), the housing intelligentsia and local media have made us believe that only government provides housing for the poor and the workforce.
U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, himself a sociologist, once said:

"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth  is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself."

But liberals have twisted the last proposition to mean that they have a license to put mediating institutions out of business.  This is sociological suicide.

For example, former State Assemblywoman for the Pasadena area, Carol Liu, has particularly championed the persecution of religious organizations that discriminate against gays in hiring.  The point of her proposed mean-spirited legislation is to send shills into churches to bring them down with harassment lawsuits. Liu has also sponsored legislation to sell Caltrans surplus luxury estate homes, condemned for the future route of the Long Beach Freeway, to nonprofit housing agencies serving the poor. This would convert wealthy single family home districts to de-facto multi-family apartment districts and dislocate the poor from their own mediating institutions of extended families, churches, and neighborhood  schools. This is the modern day equivalent of throwing the Christians to the lions and is sociological suicide.  

There are about 350 inclusionary housing units, amounting to about 1,000 people living in downtown Pasadena. It is not the small proportion of families living in inclusionary housing that should make us worry however, but the insidious impact on the lives of those families.  
Inclusionary housing:
1.  Dislocates families far from extended family networks, neighborhood schools and churches into luxury dwellings in the downtown "urban village," which is mainly marketed to those elites who want to escape the parochialisms of society (such as parochial mediating structures). Such commercialized escape zones are hardly places to raise children or adolescent boys.
2. Loosens informal social controls over youth often in indulgent one-parent homes.
3. Geographically spreads the poor and in so doing only cruelly increases the perceived burden of poverty in stark contrast with the affluence the poor are forced to live with around them.  
4. Places low income families near rich downtown churches the poor are unlikely to feel at home in.  
5. Lessens police leverage over anti-social families who may be given inclusionary condos. Homeowner associations are much easier to exploit than landlords with the power of eviction.  
6. In large part disenfranchises familes from involvement in their  children's education by compelling single parents to work and send their children to public schools and nonprofit child care and after-school programs. To deny poor parents the ability to shop elsewhere for schools is the worst class, and racist, bias of all.

7. Because overwhelmed parents are not parenting, this places children and adolescents in the hands of therapeutic professionals acting en loco parentis (in place of parents) whose claims to expertise, especially with bullying adoescent boys, is dubious.

8.  Unrealistically increases family economic expectations (keeping up with the Joneses).  This author has observed how low income families move in to these units and immediately buy their adolescent son a new car now that they have symbolically made it into the middle class.  The repo man soon comes with his tow truck to take the cars back.  Single parents must work instead of being a stay-at-home parent  to keep up their new more affluent lifestyle in an inclusionary unit.  

9. Grocery stores near or within such inclusionary housing projects typically cater to the elites and have high prices. Because of the convenience such pricey stores offer, low income occupants of inclusionary units must shop at them, which puts further economic pressure on the family. The difference between shopping at, say, upscale Gelson's market and the discount Food 4 Less across town can be several hundreds of dollars per month.
10. Incorporating low income families with adolescent boys in, or near, inclusionary housing developments with residents living in new luxury $2 million condominiums, is eventually a recipe for disaster.  

In sum, inclusionary housing is sociological  suicide.

copyright 2007 Wayne Lusvardi




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