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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/11/15

Does Affordable Housing Really Need to Be So Scarce in Most Big Cities?

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It's more effective in other ways, as well. It turns out that if you move homeless people into their own housing right off the bat, and then also give them the other help they need, such help then proves to be far more cost effective and long lasting. More bang for the buck.

Why is this? Simple. People tend to do better, by every measure, if they have a modicum of stability in their lives and can avoid the extreme stresses of homelessness, or poverty generally. Accordingly, in the years since implementing this program, the number of Utah's chronically homeless has fallen by 74%. Similarly, a recent study in Georgia found that a person who stayed in an emergency shelter (with significant numbers of others) was 5 times as likely to end up back on the street as someone who had received immediate housing of their own.

As a result of these findings, the Housing First concept is being adopted by hundreds of cities around the country in states both red and blue. And quite interestingly, the first effort to get this practice going, nationally, came from the administration of George W. Bush. The rationale? The practice has _repeatedly_ been shown to save money.

Expending money now, in order to save money later, is not a new concept

For more than a decade, Mexico has been paying parents to keep their children in school. And studies have shown conclusively that the program is remarkably cost-effective, once you honestly take into account the society-wide economic benefits of producing a healthier and better educated population.

The USA is foolish to end up spending so very much on disaster relief when much of those huge expenses could have been avoided by spending up front on disaster preparedness. Similarly, the US spends enormous sums on treating and curing disease and chronic illness, yet greatly underinvests in the prevention and primary care that could have prevented many cases of chronic illness and advanced disease.

Similarly, Housing First is not so much a "give-away" as it is an investment in the future -- a cost-effective investment that benefits the entire society as well as each helped individual.

(What you have just read is a synopsis of an article on page 42 of the last September 22 issue of The New Yorker.)

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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