ACLU Denounces My Work as “Galling” and Vicious

Tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal has 4 letters in response to last week’s “Raising Hell in Subsidized Housing” article.
James Bovard’s piece criticizing the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 housing (“Raising Hell in Subsidized Housing,” Aug. 18) viciously scapegoats families who receive housing subsidies. His condemnation of survivors of domestic violence as “troublesome tenants” is particularly galling.

Domestic violence is a primary cause of homelessness among women, and many battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they can’t secure housing. By Mr. Bovard’s logic, an abused mother must either stay silent and endure the violence she and her family are experiencing, or sacrifice her housing by reporting the abuse to police. Penalizing women who seek to protect their families is discriminatory and inhumane.

In these economic times, homelessness is an inescapable risk for increasing numbers of families. Families need access to more affordable housing, not less.

Sandra Park
Women’s Rights Project
New York

James Bovard describes Section 8 payments to recipients of subsidized housing in Stamford, Conn., Honolulu and Columbia, Md. as $2,851, $2,764 and $2,582, respectively. I assume these payments are tax free. Compare this to the monthly retirement check of an E-9, the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force, after 20 years of dedicated and noble service to his county. He would be in the top 1% of enlisted retirees, with most making substantially less. His pension system would start at approximately $2,500, all taxable. Considering the additional benefits and services the “subsidizee” may also receive from other federal and state welfare programs, the disparity just might double.

Michael Kohnen
St. Louis

Mr. Bovard paints a grim, if one-sided, picture of the state of rental subsidies. This relies, in part, on race to explain how supposedly hard-living voucher holders are ruining once nice (and mostly white) neighborhoods: “Because Section 8 recipients in some areas are mostly black or Latino, almost any enforcement effort can be denounced as discriminatory.”

The truth is that for all the uproar around Section 8 vouchers, they’ve actually done very little to diversify communities, especially in cities like Chicago. IHARP, the Illinois Housing Assistance Research Project of which my policy shop is part, found that vouchers haven’t reversed Chicago’s stubborn segregation over the last decade. To the contrary, voucher recipients are more concentrated in African-American communities now than in 2000.

I agree with the author on one point: Section 8 vouchers aren’t improving neighborhoods—white, black, Latino or otherwise. As the Obama administration looks to revamp the program, it must take an honest look at the systemized discrimination that limits housing choices for many families of color. If diversifying “good” neighborhoods is a pipe dream, let’s rally efforts around transforming the poverty and crime in the “bad” ones. Everyone deserves an affordable, safe place to call home.

Sylvia Puente
Executive Director
Latino Policy Forum

Under the current program, Section 8 voucher support never expires as long as one is “income eligible.” Once recipients get on the program they can stay forever, as long as they don’t break their lease or run afoul of the law. Infractions can be easy to spot but difficult to prove, so problem tenants tend to stay in place for years. Controlling the flow of unrelated people in and out of these units is nearly impossible.

There will always be those who need help. Seniors on fixed income and those with legitimate disabilities are unable to work, so they have no mechanism to keep up with rising costs. This constituency accounts for half of our program. The rest are families, some of whom have been on the program for decades. Rental support for the able-bodied should expire after five years, the fuse most states have adopted for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. This will go far to reduce dependency and allow the support to rotate to those who need it most.

The idea is not new. HUD has tried to impose limits through regulation, only to be beaten back by an army of activists and advocates. The solution must be legislative.

Matther T. Sternberg
Executive Director
Lancaster Housing & Redevelopment Authorities
Lancaster, Pa.
BOVARD REPLY: On the points raised by the ACLU Women’s Rights Project rep – A major problem with domestic abuse cases is that the female does not evict the violent male. The police come – they separate the combatants – and then the police return once or twice a month for similar referee functions for a long period of time. Section 8 recipients are renowned for having unauthorized guests.

I would assume that a landlord of a Section 8 tenant would not be opposed to evicting a violent male
tenant. In that sense, HUD’s “solution” seems to respond to a problem that may not exist. The problem arises when troublemakers often do not stay away — they return and the pattern is repeated – to the detriment of both the woman and the neighbors.

The new “legal right” trumpeted by Obama’s HUD could easily subvert domestic tranquility. Does the ACLU Women’s Rights Project assume that all the neighbors of violent-prone tenants will be male?


14 Responses to ACLU Denounces My Work as “Galling” and Vicious

  1. Brian Wilson August 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Dammit Jim – there you go again: using Logic to refute otherwise adrenalin fueld “arguments”.
    The dilithiaum crystals just can’t handle the ACLU load.
    IF ya know what I mean…
    I can see it’s getting to be time for more on-air swagger!

  2. Gimmel Yod August 25, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Several years ago, a family member was living in an apartment complex that also was renting to subsidized tenants who’d been victims of domestic violence. On of the “EX”boyfriends of such a tenant decided to get one over on his “rejecting-lover” one night by LIGHTING THE BUILDING ON FIRE. I’m sure that all the tenants could empathize as the fire trucks rolled into the complex. No menace there…

  3. Jim August 25, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    As long as the person who lit the fire was not specifically targeting a member of a HUD-protected class….

  4. Dirk Sabin August 25, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Gosh, if somebody said any of my comments were “galling”, I just wouldn’t know what to do. In fact, I’d be “galled” myself in a little petrifying dose of double jeopardy galling . Did they say you were viscous of vicious? I certainly hope it was the latter because its a damned affront to be accused of viscosity.

  5. Jim August 25, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    Dunno. Are ACLU lawyers known for alleging gall?

  6. Karl August 25, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    The ACLU is a fierce protector of Politically Correct views that support our noble Feds!

  7. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit August 25, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    So now you’re a vicious scapegoater who’s particularly galling? I can’t help much with the “scapegoat” thing, but I’m told that Gold Bond makes a talcum powder that can relieve the galling issue.

  8. Jim August 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I’m trying to figure out whether the “vicious scapegoating” is a promotion from the last round of denunciations I received.

  9. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit August 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Maybe you should opt for toning it down to “gentle scapegoating?” Or ramp it up to “scapegoating with a vengence,” and try for “scapegoating with extreme prejudice?” Heck, a writer like yourself should have a whole herd of scapegoats anyway, and you really ought to start billing yourself as a “scapegoatherd.”

  10. Jim August 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    The real problem is that ACLU letter is making it more difficult for me to re-brand myself as a moderate.

  11. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit August 26, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    hah – wait until PETA finds out what you’ve been doing with your scapegoats!

  12. Jim August 26, 2011 at 10:58 am #


  13. Dirk Sabin August 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    How about “scapegoating with the best of intentions”

  14. Jim August 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    sounds like a dandy inscription for a tombstone