Housing Policy Debate
Authored by #UnequalCities Network member Rahim Kurwa
Abstract: Whereas federal aid to the poor has traditionally focused on support for families, a central contradiction in these policies is the degree to which the state employs antifamily modes of regulation and punishment, a finding consistent across welfare, health, and child services. I extend this analysis to Housing Choice Vouchers, the nation’s largest rental assistance program. Interviews with voucher renters show how, like welfare’s early man in the house rules, the public–private regulation of the program turns personal bonds into eviction liabilities. I trace these vulnerabilities to two rules: one banning unauthorized tenants from residing in the home, and another banning drug- and crime-related activity. After documenting how the enforcement of these rules forces tenants to choose between family and housing, I suggest that these dynamics illustrate similarities between the punitive regulation of housing and other safety net programs.