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June 09, 2004


Many aspects of being alive fall into a category I'd call "Boring Until EXTREMELY INTERESTING." For instance, taking care of your teeth is boring, until you have a cavity. Then it becomes EXTREMELY INTERESTING.

Likewise, if you live in the first world, the system that brings you clean water every day seems boring. You just turn on the tap and there it is. But let me tell you, if it stopped working, you'd suddenly find the subject of water systems EXTREMELY INTERESTING.

So you might find the subject of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and subsidized housing, to be boring. But if you needed to live in subsidized housing, you'd find it extremely interesting.

This is an encouraging article about people in Washington, DC who find it interesting. That's because, like people all over the country, they're being screwed both by HUD and by real estate developers.

How it generally works is this: HUD gives subsidies to real estate developers so they'll build housing for poor people. Then the area changes and becomes gentrified, meaning the developers could make much more building housing in the same place for richer people. But under HUD rules the developers can't do that... unless they repeatedly fail HUD inspections. Then they have the option, as this story explains, "of paying off their mortgages, leaving them free to redevelop their properties at market rates while tenants get vouchers to seek subsidized housing elsewhere."

So developers will purposefully let their buildings go to hell, so they can pay off the mortgage and evict their tenants. But in DC, tenants have the right to match the price of the building and buy it themselves.

This would seem like the best outcome. Except extremely sleazy developers will try to fool their tenants into signing away their rights, as described in this story.

In this case, fortunately, the tenants have gotten organized, together with two important DC groups called Manna and the Washington Interfaith Network. WIN is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which was started by the very funny Saul Alinsky.

Tune in next week for more tales of the Boring Until EXTREMELY INTERESTING.

Posted at June 9, 2004 06:43 AM | TrackBack