Almost every day there are stories in local papers about subsidized housing. The headlines are usually about the citizens of the affected city protesting – Not in my backyard. There are those that say these people objecting are racist and elitist. That might be true except almost every race is represented in those needing subsidized housing and those opposing subsidized housing.
The following is my opinion and is for Port Arthur, Texas only. Port Arthur, Texas does not need any more subsidized housing. None, Nada, Zip, no more. Subsidized housing is bad for the city, college, school district, attracting business and the people living in the housing.
Recently I was watching the movie, Shawshank Redemption, for about the 15th time. One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Red, played by Morgan Freeman, tells Andy, played by Tim Robbins, that he has been “Institutionalized”. Red felt he had been in prison so long that he didn’t know how to exist outside the prison walls. Inside he had food, clothing, shelter, friends and a job. He had been forced to trade his freedom for all of those things. That is what subsidized housing does. It concentrates people into areas where almost everyone is getting clothes, food, medicine and shelter from the government. They have become “Institutionalized” and lost their freedom and their ability to survive in the outside world.
Some of our council members have explained that there are different levels of subsidized housing. They are proposing individual homes that are available to qualified owners. I do prefer this type of project over the concentrated apartment complexes where people are crammed together. These concentrated apartments generate crime for the residents and lower property values for several blocks around the facility. These council members tell me that it is a way to renovate downtown Port Arthur. In the interest of educating those that believe this, I want to say, businesses do not locate in areas of subsidized housing. What these areas do is drive business out and drives the middle income out.
Port Arthur is very close to being a city of two populations – low income and retired. The middle class have moved to nearby cities. This includes about half our city and school employees. If it weren’t for the industry in Port Arthur we would have dried up long ago. The middle class are your residential tax payers. The low income and retired do not pay the same level of property tax as the middle class I have encouraged Dr. Mark Porterie to sue the city the next time they build low income facilities in our city. These projects place an enormous burden on a school district that is already overloaded with low income children. Before you lynch me I want to tell you that I am not against educating every child and low income children are not stupid kids. Low income children do not have the resources at home as middle and upper class children. A lot of times these children have a single parent or two parents that are working to maintain their lives. The school must provide all support (medicine, clothes, food, transportation and mental support) for these kids.
The parents are trapped; they have become “Institutionalized”. The children are on their way to becoming “Institutionalized”. In 12 years they will have become dependent on the support given by the school and the city. Although they will graduate with a high school diploma many will not have the life skills that come with living in a world outside the government installations to which they have become accustomed.
As I said before, the city is planning on building single family homes that will be valued at $130,000.00. Those that purchase them will have to qualify by have an income between $35, 000.00 and $45,000.00. There are a lot of the details that I do not know but I know this. If you purchase a home and get a note on it for $130,000.00 your monthly payment will be close to $500.00 + $500.00 for insurance and taxes + $200.00 for utilities. Twelve hundred per month just to live in a house on a salary in the range above. Once you add food, transportation, health insurance and other day to day costs. It is going to be difficult for them to survive.
The citizens will get to vote on this issue. It will be up to them to decide if the Port Arthur EDC can spend tax money on this program. The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to oppose this issue.
On the same ballot the voters will get a chance to vote to allow the EDC to spend tax money on paving streets in Port Arthur. The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce does support this issue. Improving access to downtown Port Arthur will do more for its redevelopment than any housing project.