Monday, July 22, 2013

Bring Back the Flophouse

Over at Slate, Alan Durning argues that the poor need more housing choices, including "working-class rooming houses, with small private bedrooms and shared bathrooms down the hall."  In this short piece, Durning does a nice job detailing how middle-class housing standards have become the legal baseline in most communities, a turn that has made life drastically more difficult than it needs to be for minimum-wage workers:

The number of cheap rooms for rent is a fraction of what it once was in American cities. In downtown Portland, Ore., for example, the number of units available to rent for the amount that a minimum-wage worker can afford ($458 per month in 2012) fell from 4,500 in 1994 to 3,200 in 2012, according to the Northwest Pilot Project, a housing provider for seniors. These quarters are almost all subsidized and often have long waiting lists.

Publicly supported low-income housing has emerged but nowhere in the quantities needed to fill the gap. The private housing market could do much more to provide living spaces affordably if we discarded those requirements that merely protect others’ property values by outlawing rooming houses and other simple housing options.

Steve Clowney

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