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Unformatted text preview: the suburbs neither earned nor worked more than their counterparts located in the city. As might be expected, the new suburbanites complained that they were isolated from child care, adequate public transportation, and the kinds of support provided by a shared community. But most important of all, individuals who had been on welfare for a long time or felt they had little control over their lives—the crucial group that such a program is supposed to help—had a harder time finding jobs in the suburbs and made less money when they did find work (Popkin, Rosenbaum, and Meaden 1994). The preceding analysis of the flaws in recent policies should not be interpreted as an objection to either socioeconomic integration or vigorous prosecution of fair housing laws. Rather it demonstrates the continuing tendency of housers to view housing policies as panaceas and, in particular, to overstate the importance of environment in determining social behavior. Perhaps the intensity of political debate encourages this inflation of claims for policies. Nonetheless, advocates of good low-income housing might be better off admitting that the physical environment is only one of a complex of problems—including cultural values and individual behavior patterns—that block the upward mobility of the poor. To do otherwise is to court bitter disillusionment and perhaps even jeopardize the housing movement. Lessons of the past
History does not provide precise prescriptions for the future, but it does indicate that, to be successful, housing advocates should 442 Alexander von Hoffman not promote large-scale politically controversial programs (such as Moving to Opportunity) as panaceas for deep-rooted social problems. Instead history suggests that flexibility and political pragmatism are the best guides to shaping housing policy. Thus, since current housing programs enjoy considerable, although not overwhelming, political support, housing advocates should try to protect government funding to preserve and renovate viable public and subsidized housing developments and to maintain the number of rental vouchers and certificates. In addition, advocates should work to preserve tax credits to assist nonprofit community-based low-income housing efforts. In an era of drastic reductions in government expenditures for social programs, the success of housing developments as safe havens and places of social betterment will depend not on new, expensive social programs but on screening tenants and coordinating with local social service agencies, schools and educational services, and the police. And if, as President Clinton has stated, the era of big federal government is over, then advocates for effective housing policy now should refocus their energies on state and local governments and the private sector. For many housing advocates, such pragmatic approaches to policy may seem too modest. The simple goal of providing decent and safe housing to low-income people where they now live is not as l...
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