Have you ever been to a Communist or former Communist country? If so I am sure you have seen street after street of government-funded housing. Usually this consists of numerous drab apartment buildings crammed together with tiny apartments inside. But at least everyone is "equal" and has housing, right?
Historically, Americans have been averse to reliance upon governmental munificence, preferring instead to keep their hard-earned money and buy or build a house or apartment that suited their lifestyle and their needs. For this reason, the Constitution does not enumerate the power to provide housing for anyone as a function of the Federal Government.
How times have changed. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2895, the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund of 2007, by a vote of 264-148 on October 10. The bill would allocate up to $1 billion per year to construct or repair 1.5 million low-income housing units in the next ten years. This is in addition to all of the low-income housing the Federal Government already provides.
Several Representatives who supported the bill preached about the need for the Federal Government to provide "affordable" housing for the poor. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), the bill's sponsor, stated, "The Trust Fund will be the largest expansion in federal housing programs in decades." He also declared on the House Floor that "providing affordable housing for America [is] one of our greatest social and economic needs." His colleague Maxine Waters (D-CA) said the bill will put the Federal Government back in the affordable housing production business. Who knew it even belonged there in the first place?
Representative Waters also stated, "I want to emphasize that H.R. 2895 does so at no additional cost to taxpayers. It is a trust fund in the truest sense, a dedicated source of revenue, separate and apart from the annual appropriations process, reflecting the need for the Federal Government to make a long overdue commitment to affordable housing production."
This is part of the problem with our elected officials. They believe that if they declare something to be free then it is, as if by magic. The truth is that nothing is free. Someone must pay for this and other government entitlement programs. Usually the burden falls upon the middle class in the form of higher taxes. Or, according to the current trend in Congressional spending, our elected officials simply ignore the costs of the programs they enact or expand and push them off into the future, refusing to deal responsibly now with the coming fiscal crisis. Either way taxpayers have to pay for their own houses and someone else's.
In spite of the enthusiastic, feel-good rhetoric, the purpose of H.R. 2895 is similar to that of so much other legislation that creates or expands entitlement programs. It produces a group of people beholden to the generosity of the Federal Government for their daily needs. In other words, legislators create a solid voting bloc among their constituents who have an interest in maintaining them in power. It is as disgraceful to American politics as it is disingenuous.
It would, of course, be wonderful if all housing were affordable for the poor and the middle class but it is not the job of the government to build or distribute houses. It requires hard work and smart savings to afford a house, not instant handouts from the Federal Government. President George W. Bush has stated he will be veto H.R. 2895 should it come before him. If it does may he fulfill his commitment.