The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited

7 05 2019

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

This is the title of my newest law review article[2] that discusses the landmark laws enacted by Congress: the “Brooke Amendment” with respect to public housing, and the “Section 8” housing program that was intended to extend the benefits of the Brooke Amendment to housing wherever it is located. Put succinctly, the Brooke Amendment capped the payment of rent at twenty-five percent of a person’s income, with the federal government paying the difference; and it provided funds to improve public housing, and to assure the safety of its residents.

Section 8 was envisioned as giving “vouchers” to those who qualified for public housing, and permitting them to find housing anywhere, with the federal government subsidizing their rents when the twenty-five-percent-of-income threshold was passed. Taken together, the Brooke Amendment and Section 8 were America’s answer to the needs of decent housing for its poor. Today, there are two million voucher families.[3]

The United States has an unenviable record of providing affordable housing for its poor, much less for the poorest of the poor—America’s homeless. They have lived on the streets and wherever they could find shelter; and they have been shunned as “lepers” and cast aside to fend for themselves. Many have been and are in desperate need of mental health care and treatment; and they are not far removed from the poor of Calcutta, who have been chronicled down through the decades.

This is particularly true of the elderly, disabled and families with young children, who have slipped through the “cracks” and the societal “safety nets,” to the extent that such protections still exist. However, the elderly of the Boston area were singled out for humane, dignified and uplifting treatment and protection in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when work began by Senator Edward W. Brooke and me in the U.S. Congress—through its two banking committees—to address their plight.

Since then, billions of dollars have been expended, and millions of poor Americans have been helped, which tragically has only scratched the surface—as the numbers of chronically poor and those who are unable to afford private rents continue to rise in the United States. The ever-accelerating cost of housing, and the short supply of existing affordable housing units, have priced many Americans with even good jobs out of decent housing across America, in such areas as “Silicon Valley” (or the San Francisco Bay Area).

They have lived in campers, recreational vehicles (“RVs”) or wherever they could find to sleep. The effects on the poorest of the poor—those farther down the economic totem pole—have been catastrophic, especially in those areas of the United States where inclement weather is a major factor. Many have died, or been victimized, as homeless shelters have been inadequate or closed entirely for various reasons (e.g., funding and/or staffing shortages) in areas where they are needed the most.

Yesterday’s problems are compounded by staggering mental health issues relating to America’s poor and homeless; violent gang activities such as MS-13; dilapidated public housing projects, which may not be helped by the infusion of more federal funds; Social Security retirement benefits that have not kept pace with the costs of food, housing and the medical needs of America’s elderly poor; the influx of illegal immigrants from other countries, who have few discernible skills and nowhere to live; the shortage of qualified professional staff members who can deal effectively with such problems and challenges, and truly make a positive difference; and the increasing demand by most Americans for affordable housing, which has outstripped the available supply.

One size does not fit all. What works in one community may not work in another. And simply throwing money at the staggering problems might not be any solution at all. U.S. taxpayers may say “enough is enough,” and they might be right—at least with respect to their own self-interests. Money cannot be wasted if federal housing programs are to enjoy broad support from the American people. The tasks today are daunting, but the United States and Americans have risen to the challenges of the past, and may be expected to do so in the future.

 

Ed Brooke

[Senator Edward W. Brooke (1919-2015)]

 

© 2019, Timothy D. Naegele


[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and Timothy D. Naegele Resume-19-4-29). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commendation_Medal#Joint_Service). Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2]  See Timothy D. Naegele [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, “The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited,” please click on the link to the left of this note]; see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/edward-w-brooke-is-dead/ (“Edward W. Brooke Is Dead”) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Brooke (“Edward Brooke”)

[3]  But see https://crosscut.com/2019/04/despite-new-law-landlords-continue-turn-away-applicants-section-8-vouchers (“Despite new law, landlords continue to turn away applicants with Section 8 vouchers”) and https://laist.com/2019/04/10/la_wants_to_stop_landlords_from_rejecting_low-income_housing_vouchers.php (“LA Wants To Stop Landlords From Rejecting Section 8 Vouchers”) and https://www.scpr.org/news/2019/04/12/89035/la-considers-prohibiting-landlords-from-rejecting/https://www.scpr.org/news/2019/04/12/89035/la-considers-prohibiting-landlords-from-rejecting/ (“LA considers prohibiting landlords from rejecting housing assistance vouchers”—”Nearly half of the people getting a Section 8 voucher in L.A. will end up losing it because they can’t find any landlords who will rent to them”) and https://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-section-8-discrimination-law-homeless-20190419-story.html (“End Section 8 housing discrimination”—”[A]t a time when cities and counties are increasingly relying on vouchers to help reduce homelessness, many landlords won’t even consider leasing to tenants whose rent would be paid, in whole or in part, by the government. The problem is particularly acute in cities with high rents and low vacancies. In Los Angeles, nearly half the people trying to use a Section 8 voucher had it expire in 2017 before they could find a place to live, up from 18% in 2011. Several cities, including San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, have already banned discrimination against tenants with Section 8 and other housing vouchers.  . . . But California can’t end housing discrimination on a city-by-city basis. State lawmakers need to go further and pass Senate Bill 329, which would enact the ban statewide.  . . . Landlords argue that high denial rates aren’t driven by discrimination but by the paperwork, inspections and restrictions that come with rental subsidy programs. For example, it’s hard to raise the rent, even modestly, on voucher tenants. Plus, they note, the supposed “market rent” the federal government is willing to cover is often too low in California’s overheated markets, where the bigger problem is a lack of affordable housing units”) and https://www.bostonherald.com/2019/04/25/boston-receives-1000-housing-vouchers-for-homeless/ (“Boston receives 1,000 housing vouchers for homeless”) and https://wpdh.com/ny-landlords-cant-discriminate-against-section-8-anymore/ (“NY Landlords Can’t Discriminate Against Section 8 Anymore”) and https://www.wbez.org/shows/wbez-news/more-section-8-vouchers-in-chicagos-black-neighborhoods-than-a-decade-ago/e461cdf4-22d1-45bd-9522-e0983c2d1c08 (“Chicago’s Section 8 Vouchers Increasing In Black Communities, Declining In White Neighborhoods”) and https://dc.curbed.com/2019/5/9/18538152/dc-nonprofit-fair-housing-law-online-course (“D.C. nonprofit offers online fair housing course designed to prevent discrimination by landlords”)





Poverty In America

7 02 2012

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney made one of the dumbest and most insensitive comments that I have ever heard from an American politician since I became involved with politics:
You can choose where to focus.  You can focus on the rich; that’s not my focus.  You can focus on the very poor; that’s not my focus.  My focus is on middle-income Americans.

He went on to explain that “[w]e have a safety net for the poor.”  And “[i]f there are people that are falling through the cracks, I want to fix that.”[2]

However, the fact that America’s poorest citizens theoretically have access to food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers[3]—which Romney cited—does not constitute much of a “safety net” at all.  Some Americans, such as senior citizens, are too proud to accept any governmental assistance (other than Social Security and Medicare benefits) or handouts.  They have worked all of their lives; and to find themselves in poverty is embarrassing and deeply depressing.  They and others are often turned away or sanctioned by the government bureaucracy that can be brutal and cruel, especially to people who are truly in need.[4]

Those Americans who had moved into our “Middle Class” will lose their homes and everything else, which is happening already.  The idea that colleges and professional schools were guaranteed pathways to success will also evaporate.[5]  Our society and that of other countries will be upended.  And yes, there will be “class warfare,” which Barack Obama and his surrogates are fanning already.  Leave aside the fact that he will add more debt than all 43 prior presidents combined, demagoguery is in season and full swing.

When I worked in the U.S. Senate as a young lawyer with its Senate Banking Committee and later headed the Senate staff of Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass)—the first African-American in the Senate since Reconstruction following our Civil War, with Obama being the third—the senator and I met with Mitt’s father who was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1969-1973)[6], and I was very impressed with him.  At that time, I was working on the passage and implementation of the Housing and Urban Development Acts of 1969 and 1970, which included the “Brooke Amendment” relating to public housing; and the national “Housing Allowance” program, which morphed into the Section 8 housing program that has helped millions of Americans.  The senator, George Romney and I talked about these programs at length.

On behalf of Senator Brooke, I also established a summer program for disadvantaged kids in Massachusetts, in conjunction with the Pentagon, which involved underutilized military facilities within the state (e.g., the Boston Navy Yard, Otis Air Force Base) and served approximately 100,000 kids during its first year alone.  Indeed, the senator and I traveled to Massachusetts with then-Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird in his private plane to review the program and its progress.

In making my observations, I am not singling out Mitt Romney for condemnation.  I have believed in Mitt for a long time now, and will vote for him—in no small part because I share most of his positions with respect to the economy and national security issues.  However, lots of politicians and other successful Americans are “tone deaf” when it comes to the needs of the poor.  They do not relate to them at all, and they cannot understand them.  To be poor is a sign of failure in our success-oriented and driven society.  Our advertising touts beautiful bodies and fancy cars and materialistic dreams.  In no way are the poor glorified, much less given dignity.  Shame is heaped on them, which is wrong.

When I was graduating from grade school in Los Angeles, my mother came to the ceremony in a wheelchair, and I was mortified.  No other mothers were present like that.  She had suffered the convergence of two debilitating illnesses, which robbed her of her beauty and almost killed her.  By the time that I was entering high school, her right leg had been amputated, which stopped the onslaught of what she had gone through; and during the Vietnam War, she walked with an artificial leg and was named the “Woman of the Year” by the local chapter of the Red Cross—for her outstanding volunteer work.

What all of this taught me was that her faith in God had sustained her, and given her courage, hope, joy and great love.[7]  And that stigmas and discrimination attach, especially in Southern California, to those people who are physically or mentally “challenged” or handicapped, the poor, and to those who are not “beautiful.”  Hollywood has gone nationwide and worldwide since then, with a vengeance; and life-threatening illnesses and poverty are not part of the “American dream,” which has been embraced by people globally.  As the U.S. economy declines more between now and the end of this decade—which will happen to an even greater extent in countries around the world—poverty, human suffering, misery and anger will increase dramatically.[8]

The core issues will be how Americans adjust to their poverty and hopelessness, which will be just as rampant in this decade as during the Great Depression of the last century that did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest.  There are no easy solutions to losing one’s job, home, car and everything else.  As State governments scramble to avoid bankruptcy, programs that might have helped the poor will no longer exist.  For example, in California, State parks are being closed; and the nightly price for staying at those that remain open equals the cost of a cheap motel already.  Where will the poor stay, especially if they have no family members who can—or are willing to—take them in?  How will they afford food to eat, and find transportation to get from one place to another (e.g., looking for work)?  When inclement weather sets in, how will they survive?

The published numbers of “poor” do not begin to tell their tragic stories; and the human suffering will increase and become unfathomable during the balance of this decade, whether Romney is president or not.  Pure economics will dictate this; and there is nothing that can be done governmentally, by any politician.[9]  And yes, many of those poor will be “middle-income Americans” or those who had been members of our Middle Class.  They will be devastated; suicides and divorces will increase[10]; and families will be torn asunder.  Mitt Romney and the wealthy of the United States—which includes Obama and most members of Congress—need to wake up now, and begin to demonstrate real compassion.  The problem is that they have no earthly idea of what it is like to be poor.

In Greece today, parents are giving away their children because they cannot afford them.  Kids are being dumped in streets or abandoned at shelters with notes attached to them, saying that one or both parents are at wits’ end.[11]  Poverty breeds inhumanity on a scale that is unknown to most Americans; and it also breeds crime (including massive Internet fraud[12]), which will increase in the United States as money for law enforcement declines and as our prisons are overcrowded and prisoners are released.  Reality is crashing down with a thud like never before in our lifetimes.

As I wrote almost three years ago:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.[13]

The chickens are coming home to roost, in spades; and the “good times” are ending for vast numbers of Americans and their counterparts around the world.

Others will remain rich, or attain great riches[14]; and I do not begrudge it to them at all.  I do not envy or covet what another has.  I have never done so.  My parents taught me that, by their own words and actions.  In my lifetime thus far, I have had lots of money, and none.  I have friends with many millions, and one with several billions; and others who have nothing.  I have treated them all the same—with love, respect, dignity and compassion.

I lived in a tent for months at a time—with water everywhere inside it, during the rainy season—because that was all I could afford.  I have had two cars repossessed, as well as a boat.  I have been evicted; and lost my dream house, as well as most of the possessions that were important to me, including priceless family items that had been handed down over generations.  When I was in law school, I had a pair of shoes resoled so many times that I was told it could not be done anymore; and I have struggled to make ends meet for food.

I do not wish any of this on others.  However, I realize that many Americans have experienced losses, pain and suffering that are far worse than I ever have; and this is true today of people abroad who are dying of wars, diseases and malnutrition, and are being forced into slavery and prostitution.[15]  I have great faith in God, the United States, all Americans[16], and people everywhere.  I believe we will survive like my mother did.  However, we will be tested like never before.

© 2012, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.,www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com; see also Google search:Timothy D. Naegele

[2] See http://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/02/politics/campaign-wrap/?hpt=hp_t1

[3] As discussed later in this article, “housing vouchers” are an outgrowth of the national “Housing Allowance” program that I crafted as a young attorney with the Senate Banking Committee—which was complementary to the “Brooke Amendment,” and morphed into the Section 8 housing program that has helped millions of Americans.

[4] As I have written:

[L]awyers who are prosecutors are often less interested in fairness and justice than they are in winning at all costs, and exercising their raw power and hurting others in the process—such as those who are innocent but are convicted anyway.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/

And I added:

A federal official with reason to know told me that between 15-20 percent of the indictees in federal courts are probably innocent.  Some are seniors who have been charged with cheating the Social Security program, and they are scared to death, so they agree to plea bargains rather than fight for their innocence.

See id. at n.8.  This is truly frightening, and cruel.  Also, those who are engaged in prosecutorial misconduct are “sheltered” by the government, which is a travesty unto itself.  Aside from any civil remedies against them, such prosecutors should be prosecuted and disbarred.

See, e.g.http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-02-06/ted-stevens-prosecutors-justice-department/52922922/1 (“Taxpayers pay to defend prosecutors in Ted Stevens case”); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/#comment-1700 (“Perhaps the best remedy for such abuses is to have the ‘guilty’ prosecutors incarcerated; and let justice be meted out with respect to them, by those in prisons”)

[5] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/#comment-1977 (“Law School May Amount To The Worst Investment Of Her Life!”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/are-colleges-dinosaurs/ (“Are Colleges Dinosaurs?”) (see also the footnotes and all other comments beneath the article)

[6]  See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Romney#Secretary_of_Housing_and_Urban_Development

[7] See, e.g.https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/what-and-where-is-god/ (“What And Where Is God?”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

[8] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1960 (“Global Economy Could Endure Disaster For a Week”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and all of the other comments beneath it)

[9] See, e.g., http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html (“Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess”) and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html (“Euphoria or the Obama Depression?”); see also http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/ (“Greenspan’s legacy: more suffering to come”)

[10] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/divorces/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

[11] See, e.g., http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2085163/Children-dumped-streets-Greek-parents-afford-them.html (“Children ‘dumped in streets by Greek parents who can’t afford to look after them any more'”)

[12] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/lawyers-and-internet-scams/ (“Lawyers And Internet Scams”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)

[13] See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

[14] See, e.g., http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2012/02/02/the-youngest-and-richest-people-in-america-from-mark-zuckerberg-to-sean-parker-photos.html (“The 10 Youngest Richest, From Sergey Brin to Mark Zuckerberg”)

[15] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/human-trafficking/ (“Human Trafficking”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)

[16] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/ (“America: A Rich Tapestry Of Life”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)








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