Many life forms build, own and defend a home/nest/burrow, etc so they can procreate and raise offspring for the next generation. Our DNA is wrapped in the protective double helix. Our genes have constructed cellular walls to protect gene function. We have skin to protect body function. It’s clear that building, acquiring, owning, and defending property like a home is a key factor of evolutionary ‘fitness’. Therefore, a strong society must prioritize home ownership. Why? The home is often a family’s most valuable asset. Further, a society of homeowners ensures people will respect each other’s rights to private property and create laws to defend these rights from 3rd party intervention. The importance of local neighborhood associations proves the ‘spatial selection rule of cooperation’ that people in close physical proximity are motivated to cooperate in enlightened self-interest in this case their private property rights. (See ‘Evolution of an Ownership Society’ post).
In the United States, there are 2.0 million people living in public housing projects and 4.7 million Americans living in Section 8 rent-subsidized/controlled housing many of whom have little hope for a brighter future because of their dependence on the Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing and welfare. Much public housing is in terrible physical condition because government funding is low and renters do not have ownership in their place of living. It’s natural. We should convert the wasteful cycle of welfare checks going back to HUD, only deepening dependence and misery, to an earned equity voucher tied to good behavior (eg no felony crime) and productive work (full-time work for 3-5 years).
The Department of Housing and Urban Development should be changed to the Department of Home Ownership. Their mandate should be to methodically convert all public housing projects to private real estate projects and allow current residents to earn equity vouchers to buy their first home/apartment.
Proposed Solution #1: Privatize public housing
- Public housing home boards: Create building management boards comprised of nominated residents respected among their peers and approved by HUD initially to ensure proper management. The management boards will be able to re-authorize all living residents and may make recommendations to accept or evict fellow residents based on criminal record and behavior. Residents can create a secure, happy living environment for their families. Evicted residents will be placed in housing that might require closer monitoring.
- Earned equity vouchers: every resident can earn an equity voucher to pay for the down payment on a new home/apartment based on having a good public record and a full-time job over a 3 year vesting period. If a resident is convicted of a felony crime during such time, the resident board can evict the resident or decide to start the ownership vesting period all over again. After their vesting period, the government will give an equity voucher to purchase a new home or apartment. The government would be on co-holder of title on the real estate for an additional 3 years to make sure the new homeowner becomes a responsible home owner and pays mortgage requirements. As public housing residents leave to buy a home or move to another building requiring more supervision, each home board can decide to accept new residents. Within 5 years, the Department can sell the public housing buildings to generate revenue for the federal government.
- Fannie/Freddie Mae can insure private loans provided there is a 20% downpayment, documented job and income, and principal and interest repayment starting on day one.
Home board governance and earned equity vouchers will create a powerful incentive for residents to cooperate in a natural way, protect the common good in each building, work hard, be proud, pay your own way, earn ownership and create value for you and your family. Over time, we hope to convert all public to private housing.
- The Home Ownership program would have the following framework:a. National performance plans and goals for public housing. The Department rewards buildings who have met standards with re-apportionment of existing dollars. This creates competition among buildings to be safe and clean for residents.b. Local building housing boards will implement national living standards. Boards will be created by residents, initial approval by local authorities until performance standards are met. Then, residents have self-governance just like the private sector. They can accept new residents and evict residents who have broken the law.
Proposed Solution #2: Federal Private Property Protection Act
People’s right to own, protect, and defend property is a fundamental natural right, a key to one’s evolutionary fitness, and tangible measure of freedom. Private property rights is also the clearest test of democratic government by, of, and for the people, not the other way around. It is also tangible firewall against government, which as an entity has a natural interest to grow and be powerful.
The Supreme Court of the United States made a terrible decision in the Kelo vs. New London, CT Eminent Domain Case in which, for the first time, a government could use eminent domain to expropriate a property owner against their will at an appraised, not free market price, for a ‘private use and private beneficiaries’ that would benefit the public with greater tax resources. Eminent domain’s original intent was to limit expropriation only for limited public use such as public transportation, education, or defense. Otherwise, the government can always pay a seller a price they can’t refuse putting the power in the individual, not the government.
Federal Private Property Protection Act:
Every free nation should have a federal Private Property Protection Act that limits federal government expropriation of private land to public transportation (e.g. roads, bridge, airport, train) or national security (military base or defense installation). It should also establish a market-comparable valuation method, reasonable arbitration process including jury trial if parties can not agree to value in arms-length negotiation, and a defendant’s right to petition for a local referendum so all eligible voters (mainly property owners) can realize ‘equal justice under the law’. To note, the government can always make an ‘offer the unwilling property holder can not refuse’ to ensure primacy of individual rights over government power.
This Act would serve as public notice of legislative prerogative to the judiciary; a national standard for state and local governments’ expropriation efforts; and a powerful ‘Ownership Society’ message to the 70% of American property-owners that inalienable individual rights trump government power.
In the last 20-30 years, governments, in concert with private developers, are increasingly condemning and expropriating private land for broad city economic development purposes including private beneficiaries, which clearly violates Founders’ intent. For example, in 1998, the Institute for Justice fought and won a famous case where Donald Trump’s Atlantic City casino wanted to expand its limo parking lot and was able to take Vera Cook’s house located next door to the casino. 1998 Vera Cook v Donald Trump New Jersey Eminent Domain case. Thankfully, the NJ Supreme Court ruled that taking was not a ‘public use’, but the Kelo Supreme Court ruling has actually expanded government power to do so supported just by a tax revenue or jobs means test.
In the US, American homes and businesses are now fair game for any developers armed with financial analysis and government power. As we know from the European experience, government power, like a cancer, is very hard to roll back on the individual once it takes hold.
Proposed Solutions hot links: Work; Home; Education; Retirement; Health Care; Immigration; Rejuvenation & Relationships