Obama administration moves to keep the poor under its thumb in Galveston

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal ran a revealing story (subscription only) about the federal government’s attempt to perpetuate low income housing projects in Galveston, Texas. Four years ago, Hurricane Ike destroyed 569 public-housing units. The Democratic mayor wanted to rebuild the housing as part of a “mixed-income” development. But he was defeated by a conservative businessman who promised not to rebuild the units. Instead, he proposed to issue housing vouchers to displaced residents so they would have options, including finding housing near where they have job opportunities.

Enter the feds. According to the Journal, U.S. officials have threatened to cut-off almost half a billion dollars of aid to Galveston unless it rebuilds the old, low-income units.

The feds talk, euphemistically, in terms of rebuilding the units as “mixed-income” housing. But the chairman of the Galveston Housing Authority is probably closer to the mark when he says they are “like communities of the poor [that] destroy people’s incentives to do better.”

Why does the Obama administration want to keep poor people where they are, instead of offering them the choice of finding housing where they might well prefer to live? Perhaps because Obama likes the current incentive structure that keeps the poor beholden to the government and to the Democrats. And perhaps because, as Stanley Kurtz argues, the administration wants to keep the population concentrated in the city and to suppress the population of the suburbs.