Monday, December 17, 2018

Unsheltered In the Land Of Plenty

Thousands live in the streets in America’s richest cities. The article below offers only a superficial grasp of why -- and offers only the tired old "solution" of more government spending.  Unleashing liberty would however make a big difference -- without a penny of government spending.  As ever, the basic problem is one of government regulation.

An immediate start could be made by abolishing all land-use regulations so you can buy a farm or other lightly used land and build houses on it, without more ado. In SanFrancisco, local regulations prohibit that.  Opening up new land for housing anywhere near SF is almost impossible.  Result:  Scarcity of housing drives costs sky high. Either to buy or rent is prohibitive in SF.  In Houston, by contrast, there is very little land use regulation and prices are much lower than in SF.

And the second most effective change would be to stop treating tenants like saints and landlords like devils.  When a tenant "skips" without paying rent or leaves property damage behind it should be treated as just another theft -- which it is.  It leaves the landlord as out of pocket as if he had been mugged.  So tenant offenders should be pursued and prosecuted by the police.  And the government should show that it is in general on the side of landlords

The present lopsided system is very deterring to potential landlords because of the risk of big losses involved.  If potential landlords had more protection from ferals, many would enter the market -- many who are at present rightly scared off.  I know.  I was a landlord in my younger days and did get burned on several occasions -- but fortunately in only minor ways.  Even for me, however, it eventually became too much so I sold off my rental houses and now own just the house I live in.

Another bugbear is building regulations.  There is a great list of things you must and must not do in building a house that greatly increase costs and reduce flexibility.  High density accommodation like the old terrace houses is now very hard to get approved in most places -- even though such houses could be built more cheaply than freestanding homes.  And regulations about how many people can be allowed to live in a given house are also strict.  But many people would rather live in a crowded house than live in the streets.

So deregulation would reduce the cost to buy, and  full legal rights for landlords would fill more and more houses with low-income tenants.

The headline of the press release announcing the results of the county’s latest homeless census strikes a note of progress: “2018 Homeless Count Shows First Decrease in Four Years.” In some ways that’s true. The figure for people experiencing homelessness dropped 4 percent, a record number got placed in housing, and chronic and veteran homelessness fell by double ­digits. But troubling figures lurk. The homeless population is still high, at 52,765— up 47 percent from 2012. Those who’d become homeless for the first time jumped 16 percent from last year, to 9,322 people, and the county provided shelter for roughly 5,000 fewer people than in 2011.

All this in a year when the economy in L.A., as in the rest of California and the U.S., is booming. That’s part of the problem. Federal statistics show homelessness overall has been trending down over the past decade as the U.S. climbed back from the Great Recession, the stock market reached all-time highs, and unemployment sank to a generational low. Yet in many cities, homelessness has spiked.

It’s most stark and visible out West, where shortages of ­shelter beds force people to sleep in their vehicles or on the street. In Seattle, the number of “unsheltered” homeless counted on a single night in January jumped 15 percent this year from 2017—a period when the value of Amazon. com Inc., one of the city’s dominant employers, rose 68 percent, to $675 billion. In California, home to Apple, Facebook, and Google, some 134,000 people were homeless during the annual census for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in January last year, a 14 percent jump from 2016. About two-thirds of them were unsheltered, the highest rate in the nation.

At least 10 cities on the West Coast have declared states of emergency in recent years. San Diego and Tacoma, Wash., recently responded by erecting tents fit for disaster relief areas to provide shelter for their homeless. Seattle and Sacramento may be next.

The reason the situation has gotten worse is simple enough to understand, even if it defies easy solution: A toxic combo of slow wage growth and skyrocketing rents has put housing out of reach for a greater number of people. According to Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored housing giant, the portion of rental units affordable to low earners plummeted 62 percent from 2010 to 2016.

Rising housing costs don’t predestine people to homelessness. But without the right interventions, the connection can become malignant. Research by Zillow Group Inc. last year found that a 5 percent increase in rents in L.A. translates into about 2,000 more homeless people, among the highest correlations in the U.S. The median rent for a one-bedroom in the city was $2,371 in September, up 43 percent from 2010. Similarly, consultant McKinsey & Co. recently concluded that the runup in housing costs was 96 percent correlated with Seattle’s ­soaring homeless population. Even skeptics have come around to accepting the relationship. “I argued for a long time that the homelessness issue wasn’t due to rents,” says Joel Singer, chief executive officer of the California Association of Realtors. “I can’t argue that anymore.”

Homelessness first gained national attention in the 1980s, when declining incomes, cutbacks to social safety net programs, and a shrinking pool of affordable housing began tipping people into crisis. President Ronald Reagan dubiously argued that homelessness was a lifestyle choice. By the mid2000s, though, the federal government was taking a more productive approach. George W. Bush’s administration pushed for a “housing first” model that prioritized getting people permanent shelter before helping them with drug addiction or mental illness. Barack Obama furthered the effort in his first term and, in 2010, vowed to end chronic and veteran homelessness in five years and child and family homelessness by 2020.

Rising housing costs are part of the reason some of those deadlines were missed. The Trump administration’s proposal to hike rents on people receiving federal housing vouchers, and require they work, would only make the goals more elusive. Demand for rental assistance has long outstripped supply, leading to yearslong waits for people who want help. But even folks who are lucky enough to have vouchers are increasingly struggling to use them in hot housing markets. A survey by the Urban Institute this year found that more than three-quarters of L.A. landlords rejected tenants receiving rental assistance.

It’s not bad everywhere. Houston, the fourth-most-populous city in the nation, has cut its homeless population in half since 2011, in part by creating more housing for them. That’s dampened the effect of rising rents, Zillow found.

Efficiency can go only so far. More resources are needed in the places struggling the most with homelessness. McKinsey calculated that to shelter people adequately, Seattle would have to increase its outlay to as much as $410 million a year, double what it spends now. Still, that’s less than the $1.1 billion the consultants estimate it costs “as a result of extra policing, lost tourism and business, and the frequent hospitalization of those living on the streets.” Study after study, from California to New York, has drawn similar conclusions. “Doing nothing isn’t doing nothing,” says Sara Rankin, a professor at Seattle University’s School of Law and the director of the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project. “Doing nothing costs more money.”



Trump Makes Unscheduled Visit To Honor Fallen Soldiers During ‘Wreaths Across America’ Event

President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday to honor America’s fallen as thousands across the country laid wreaths on veterans’ graves.

Trump paid his respects as volunteers for ‘Wreaths Across America‘ waited in long lines to place a Christmas wreath on the tombs of America’s greatest heroes. The event, which is held every December, aims to “remember, honor, and teach” about those who served, and perished, fighting for America’s freedom. In addition to Arlington National Cemetery, Wreaths Across America Day is observed at more than 1,400 cemeteries in all 50 states, as well as at sea and abroad.

The president made the surprise visit to the military cemetery roughly an hour after the wreath-laying event began. He walked through the grounds and viewed firsthand, in the rain and wind, the tributes that were given to America’s veterans.

Trump faced criticism in November for not attending a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day and later admitted that despite attending a memorial service for World War I soldiers in Paris, France, the day earlier, he should have also gone to Arlington on the federal holiday.

“As you know, I just left the day before the American Cemetery, and I probably think — and that was one where it was raining as hard as you can imagine, and I made a speech at the American Cemetery the day before, and I probably —  you know, in retrospect I should have,” Trump said at the time. “I did last year, and I will virtually every year.”

Trump praised Wreaths Across America organizers and the volunteers for their dedicated and honorable work in the gloomy weather. “They do a great job, a really great job,” Trump said during his visit. “Thank you.”



LOL: Trump Just Cancelled The White House Christmas Party For The Press -- And Reporters Are Pissed

President Donald Trump canceled the White House Christmas party for the press and liberal reporters are not happy about it.

According to Fox News, the annual gathering was often something many in the media looked forward to attending.

But with so many in the media constantly attacking and being hostile toward the president, it appears Trump isn’t going to spend the evening wining and dining them on taxpayer dollars.

Several liberal journalists lashed out and complained on Twitter about Trump’s decision.

Here’s more from the Fox News report:

The annual Christmas-season gathering was a significant perk for those covering the White House, as well as other Washington reporters, anchors and commentators, and New York media executives would regularly fly in for the occasion. At its peak, the invitation-only soirees grew so large that there were two back-to-back events, one for broadcast outlets and one for print organizations. Journalists who attended the events, which featured a catered buffet of lamb chops, crab claws and elaborate desserts, got to roam the decorated mansion with a spouse or other family member, a friend or a colleague, adding to the invitation’s allure.

But the biggest fringe-benefit was the picture-taking sessions, in which the president and first lady would patiently pose with guests and briefly chat with them in front of a Christmas tree, with the White House sending out the photos — copies of which were invariably sent home to mom. This would take a couple of hours, with long lines snaking across the building’s first floor. Bill Clinton even posed for pictures with journalists days after he was impeached.



Democrats and Racial Division

They now play the race card in every hand —because often it works

Democrats are taking racial politics to new heights—and no wonder, since the tactic has again succeeded. This week [black] Republican Senator Tim Scott said he will oppose the nomination of Thomas Farr, tapped for a federal judgeship in North Carolina. Senator Jeff Flake is voting no to showcase his opposition to Donald Trump, and the two GOP defections are enough to torpedo Mr. Farr’s appointment this year.

Mr. Scott cited legal work that Mr. Farr performed decades ago for North Carolina’s then-Senator Jesse Helms. After the 1990 election, the Justice Department accused Helms of trying to intimidate black voters by sending a postcard claiming that people who recently moved were ineligible to cast ballots. Mr. Farr defended Helms in the matter. But he told the Senate last year that he wasn’t consulted on the postcard’s content and didn’t know it had been sent until Justice sent a letter to the campaign.

A 1991 internal Justice memo, published this week, says that Mr. Farr, who also had coordinated “ballot security” for Helms in the 1984 election, discussed the idea of sending some kind of postcard in 1990, but that he counseled against it. Nonetheless, Mr. Scott said Thursday that the memo “shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities” and “created more concerns.”

There’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of Mr. Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican. But Democrats will see Mr. Farr’s defeat as a vindication of their most underhanded and inflammatory racial tactics.

Consider a second complaint against Mr. Farr: that the North Carolina Legislature retained him to defend its 2013 voter-ID law. “This is a man who stands for disenfranchisement of voters, particularly minority voters,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said this week. In a letter last year, four members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote that in Mr. Farr the White House could hardly have found a nominee “with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights.”William Barber II, a former leader of the North Carolina NAACP, called Mr. Farr “a product of the modern white supremacist machine.”

This is racial demagoguery. The North Carolina law, in addition to requiring voter ID, shortened early voting to 10 days from 17 and eliminated same-day registration. A liberal federal appeals court struck down these provisions in 2016, saying they “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” But many states have similar rules.

The U.S. Supreme Court might have upheld North Carolina’s, as it did Indiana’s ID requirement in 2008. But things got complicated after North Carolina narrowly elected a Democratic Governor and Attorney General in 2016. They jumped in, asking the High Court not to intervene. In turning down the case, Chief Justice John Roberts specifically cited “the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law.”

So the appeals court’s decision stands, aiding the Democratic narrative that any attempt to increase ballot integrity is a racist plot. A nice counterpoint is Florida’s recount debacle this year: After Broward County couldn’t locate about 2,000 ballots, Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes offered the reassurance that they were “in the building”—somewhere. Democrats reportedly circulated an altered form to fix faulty absentee ballots, on which the due date had been changed to extend it past Election Day. Ballot integrity?

In 2005 a bipartisan commission on election reform, led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, endorsed the idea of a photo-ID requirement. “Voters in nearly 100 democracies use a photo identification card without fear of infringement on their rights,” the report said. The commission also said that ballot integrity is “a hallmark of democracy.” Was Jimmy Carter harboring racist motivations?

Another case of trying to rile up racial division was this week’s Senate runoff in Mississippi. Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was assailed for using a clumsy joke to flatter one of her supporters. “I would fight a circle saw for him,” she said. “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

The national media portrayed this as a coded reference to Jim Crow-era lynchings, which is ludicrous. Many press accounts omitted the “circle saw” line, making the comments appear less jocular. Several companies, including Google and Major League Baseball, asked Mrs. Hyde-Smith to return their campaign donations. Mrs. Hyde-Smith won the election anyway, but the attacks will go on.

In Florida, some supporters of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, are saying he lost because he is black. But even among black voters, the progressive Mr. Gillum underperformed by four percentage points Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who also lost. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams blamed her gubernatorial defeat on “systemic disenfranchisement, disinvestment and incompetence,” despite massive turnout for a midterm election.

For two years, Democrats have denounced President Trump’s rhetoric as divisive, and sometimes they’ve been right. Yet they’re also only too happy to polarize the electorate along racial lines, insinuating that Republicans steal elections and pick judges who nurse old bigotries. That tactic now appears to have sunk Mr. Farr’s nomination, which is a shame. The only way to discourage these unmoored racial attacks is to ensure they don’t work.



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