In 2016, city officials in Washington, DC decided to offer rental subsidies of up to 175% of fair market rent.
The desperate move, intended to reduce homelessness, made it possible for a low-income individual to rent an apartment going for up to $2,648 per month.
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Roughly 70 people took advantage of the opportunity to move into apartments at Sedgwick Gardens – an iconic art deco building located in Cleveland Park in northwest Washington. Most of the new tenants were previously homeless adults who came directly from shelters or the streets; many struggled with severe behavioral problems and were not ready to live on their own.
In 2018, police responded to 121 complaints at the apartment building (up from 34 in 2016) ranging from opioid abuse and pot smoke to threats of violence and feces in the lobby.
The apartment now has social workers on call at night.
The failed social experiment at Sedgwick Gardens is part of the district’s “housing first” policy to reduce homelessness. The controversial approach aims to provide longterm housing without checking for addiction or mental illness.
“Housing first and just the voucher works great for some people,” says David Buck, an associate dean at the University of Houston’s College of Medicine. “But for people who are chronically mentally ill or chronically homeless…those people don’t do as well just jumping in.”
Judging by statistics, the “housing first” initiative has not been a success. The number of homeless families dropped 19% from 2017 to 2018, but the number of homeless single adults jumped 5% in 2018.
Statistics from last year suggest there are roughly 7,000 homeless people living in DC. Separate studies suggest the area has experienced the most intense gentrification of any city in the US. The average 1-bedroom apartment in DC costs over $2,000 per month, and the city would need to build 36,000 units by 2025 just to keep up with housing demand.
In spite of its obvious flaws, Democratic lawmakers are still promoting the “housing first” policy.
Last month, Democratic Council Member Brianne Nadeau introduced a bill that would force landlords to reserve at least 30% of their rooms for tenants who receive housing assistance.
This bill will exacerbate classiest tensions in the city and make it even harder for the average working resident to find a place to live.
Editor’s note: Its amazing how city level bureaucrats are constantly trying to “save the world” with socialist policies that have never worked, can’t work and would be bad if they did work.