Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Affordable" Housing: Bleeding Hearts vs Money Makers

I have been in the affordable housing industry for nearly ten years and have born witness to the constant pull between the bleeding heart and the money-making conservative. The bleeding heart wants the best deal for all, and will house anyone from the drunken bum under the bridge to the ex crack dealer avoiding child support. The money-making conservative doesn't care about housing in and of itself, but about the buck to be made by charging the most by providing the least.

One of the realities of government housing programs is that the programs allow landlords to charge higher than normal rents to off set the administrative burden of pushing cases of paper and filling out forms ad nausem. Therefore, a concept that seems to belong to the bleeding heart is taken over by the money-maker, as the money-maker holds the purse strings.

So what happens when you have money-makers partering with the bleeding hearts to fulfill two ends with the same means? The money-makers run the budget and question why the bleeding hearts are spending staff time on school supply drives and food shelves. Meanwhile, bleeding hearts allow free loaders to live in apartments for months rent-free because they can't stand the thought of an eviction and question how the money-makers can be so harsh.

These are extreme examples but they are examples I have witnessed and conversations in which I have partaken, and the nexus between providing a basic human need and making a buck off that need is a delicate one. In the end, there needs to be some money making or appliances go unfixed and yards go untended. Likewise, there needs to be some forgiveness of poor choices or there would be no one living in the buildings to pay rent.

I find myself comfortably in the middle, making a livable wage off an industry designed to help those who do not. I sit in a cubicle at the "home office" where I am shielded from the reality of what happens: all I get are the stories of our residents an.d the numbers from the money-makers. Some days I am able to accept the different worlds and other days, like today, I question my place in the big ugly scheme of things.


  1. What a wonderful job of writing. You are right that it is a complex mess.
    Hang in there!

  2. Lovely thoughts about the mushy world that we live in. Intentions are one thing, but results are what matter. You need compassion and money and if you are not generating both, its time to fix the formula!