Wednesday, June 14, 2006
What makes a city eligible for federal poverty aid? NPR reported this morning about a potential change in HUD criteria for community development block grants, which have risen in importance with the increased authority given to states in handing out federal money. Developed in the 1970s, the current CDBG criteria place a large emphasis on the age of housing stock; the older the buildings, the more likely a city is to receive aid. Although focusing on poor quality housing certainly makes sense for HUD, this criterion also reflects the outmoded thinking of the '60s and '70s -- that urban poverty was caused in large part by old wood and nails, as opposed to a lack of income and segregation in an underclass culture. Leftists critics have also argued that the focus on demolishing "blighted" housing was pushed by cities' desire to move unwanted African American neighborhoods close to downtown and spurred by chops-licking builders and developers.