Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Come On-a My House

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I’m always rather leery when we decide to take public programs and hand them over to the private sector.  The argument for it is that the investors have more of a stake in it and they will want to make sure that they get a good return on their investment.  Over the last 16 years in many states private groups have taken over what the government used to do: schools, public assistance, and jails.  The main the complaintwith the private groups taking over what was a government responsibility is that the businesses are more beholden to their stock holders and bottom line than for those they are helping.  It is why many charter schools have been shown to be just as effective or less than effective than the crumbling public school systems they came in to displace.  For profit prisons aren’t as cost effective as state owned prisons.  When public institutions become privately owned usually its the disenfranchised that pays the price and the checks and balances get out of whack.

So what does this have to do with the current election?  On Friday, the Boston Globepublished an article that examines the privately owned low-income housing units in Chicago.  They have roamed away far from their usual beat because Senator Obama is a proponent for privately owned low income housing and many of the apartments are beyond disrepair.

a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies – including several hundred in Obama’s former district – deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.”

The article goes on to discuss how housing developers like recently indicted Tony Rezkos have been contributors to Barack Obama’s campaign for the last 10 years. 

Tenants who lived in apartments run by Tony Rezkos’ company “Rezmar Corp” complained of rat infestations and apartments with poor insulation.  Although Rezmar mismanaged the properties they were still able to get a 3.1 million dollar loan from Chicago’s Mayor Daly administration.

Rezko’s former partner Daniel Mahru thinks that privately owned public housing is a bust.  “Affordable housing run by private companies just doesn’t work,” Mahru, who no longer works with Rezko, said in an interview with the Globe. “It’s difficult, if not impossible, for a private company to maintain affordable housing for low-income tenants.”

Since 1995 Rezko and Obama formed a bond with Rezko contributing to Obama’s campaign and helping the Obama’s pick out the house they now live in.  The buildings that are in disarray are in Obama’s district.  Obama says he didn’t know anything about the problems in Rezmar’s buildings.

Privately operated public housing is a pet cause for Obama.  As a state senator he co-sponsored a bill that increased state subsidies for private investors.  He also co-sponsored an annual fund to subsidized rents for extremely low-income tenants but that didn’t pass.  With the current housing crunch and the financial problems of Freddie Mac and Annie Mae, Obama wants to look out for those at the bottom of the economic rung.

 “Our nation’s low-income families are facing an affordable housing crisis, and it is our responsibility to ensure this crisis does not get worse by ineffective replacement of existing public-housing units,” said Obama.

But if Obama truly feels this way then perhaps he should re-think his ideas on  privately operated public housing.  There are problems in most major inner city neighborhoods but adding deteriorating structures and unaccountable landlords shouldn’t be one of them.  I don’t know if corporations can do a better job than the government (both seem to suck at it, but at least the government kept the structures in somewhat good condition) but it seems to me that when someone’s main objective is getting money out of a venture then they are going to cut corners where they can in order to line their pockets.  If these are the people Obama wants to put in charge of public housing I’d hate to see who he’d have in his cabinet.

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Written by rentec

30 June, 2008 at 6:53 am

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