Sticker shock about new public housingYour Oct. 7...


October 18, 1997

Sticker shock about new public housing

Your Oct. 7 editorial about public housing reports a unit cost of $310,650 for the houses and apartments in the new Pleasant View Gardens. Talk about sticker shock!

That figure will buy a split-level or rancher and a two-car garage on a quarter-acre of land in Harford or Howard counties. Maybe Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III might save taxpayers some money by building there. The money left over could be used to build a nice park where the high-rises used to be.

Frank Novak


Some things in your lead editorial (''Public housing's new look,'' Oct. 6) caught my eye. The editorial closes by posing the questions: ''Can it succeed? Or is it just money down the drain?''

What has to be figured into the equation, whether it be public housing per se or Section 8 housing, which is also public housing in a different form, is the important fact that you deal with a housing unit per family -- singular, not plural, families.

What happens (based on personal observation) is that after a family gets a unit (singular, not plural) assigned to it, more frequently other families move in. The other families may be relatives or friends with their children. A unit is designed for one family only. When a unit is overpopulated beyond what is intended, it leads to rapid deterioration. This is what has happened in both public housing and Section 8 housing.

To answer your questions: No it will not succeed and it will be money down the drain, unless and until the city enacts a system of policing the occupancy of each unit as well as periodic inspections of property to see that normal interior care is observed. If the care is lacking, occupants should be thrown out, social workers' philosophies notwithstanding. After all, we taxpayers are funding these programs.

Richard L. Lelonek


Are you people nuts?

Your editorial of Oct. 7 tries to persuade us that spending $310,650 per unit for new public housing will be worth the price, since changing the architecture from high-rise to garden apartment-style living will somehow change the nature of the residents. You go on to state that the answer probably won't emerge for decades, and that those with ''open minds'' may agree that this will be worth the risk.

First of all, I invite anyone who believes that architecture has anything to do with how one lives to look at the Lower Park Heights/Reisterstown Road area, where one can see that, apparently, even the townhouse style produces squalid living conditions. I know, I know, those houses don't have central air, but you just can't trust those architects!

Second, the ''answer'' has already emerged loud and clear. After decades of experience in this country and around the world, the social-welfare state has proven to be a colossal failure. I don't know who's dumber: those who think this plan will work, or those who let their money be taken to further this obscenity. Finally, I suggest that your ''open minds'' might actually be holes in your heads.

Dave Reich


A general law of life and economics is that whenever something is subsidized or made ''free'' (i.e., provided by government at a zero price), that good will become very expensive.

This is true whether the good is free health care or public housing.

There is no better example than the one provided in your editorial of Oct. 7, ''It makes no sense -- or does it?'' When the cost of new public housing units at ''Pleasant View Gardens'' is $310,650 a unit, taxpayers ought to begin thinking about whether they want government to provide such benefits or whether they would rather keep their money and let private charity help the truly poor at a much lower cost.

Civil society is not created by public transfers of wealth; it is created when people take responsibility for their own lives and own their own housing.

Lower taxes and regulations in Maryland would help the poor more than building more public housing at outrageous costs.

Habitat for Humanity is a better model for Baltimore than Pleasant View Gardens.

James A. Dorn


L The writer is a professor of economics at Towson University.

Pub Date: 10/18/97

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