This morning’s brief on blight from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center is followed up by a report this afternoon from the city’s Bureau of Governmental Research entitled “The House that Uncle Sam Built: The Continued Expansion of Subsidized Housing in New Orleans.” From the findings:
Since the Katrina disaster in 2005, an influx of federal aid has propelled a radical transformation of the city’s subsidized rental housing market. From accelerated public housing redevelopments to new mixed-income complexes to increased housing vouchers, federal aid has reshaped and expanded the supply. The number of subsidized units in New Orleans is approximately 21% higher than pre-Katrina and growing.
Emily Schaeffer discussed the problems associated with both direct provision of public housing as well as planned mixed-income developments in a 2007 issue of the Mercatus Policy Series. Based on fieldwork in New Orleans and a synthesis of existing literature, she found that portable housing vouchers were preferable both to recipients and to taxpayers:
Mixed-income developments are more expensive than comparable housing assistance policies. Moving housing assistance entirely to a voucher choice program would yield better outcomes at a lower cost than the status quo. The financing from the sale of government land should be taken advantage of as an opportunity to improve fiscal responsibility within the housing assistance program. The MID approach is unable to accommodate all of the families receiving assistance prior to the storm and has no means of ensuring ongoing financing without increasing costs imposed on the taxpayers.
I’m thrilled to announce that Robert H. Nelson, professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and visiting senior scholar at the Mercatus Center, will be guestblogging on Neighborhood Effects through May.
Bob’s expertise are in the fields of local land use and zoning, economic ethics, and federal land policy. Most recently, he’s the author of Moving Past Kelo: A New Institution for Land Assembly — Collective Neighborhood Bargaining Associations in the Mercatus Policy Series and Private Neighborhoods and the Transformation of Local Government, published in 2005 by the Urban Institute Press. Before becoming a professor at Maryland, Bob worked in the Office of the Secretary of the Interior between 1975 and 1993 and thus brings expertise as both a practitioner and a scholar. He earned his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.
I first became acquainted with Bob’s work in Addis Ababa in 2005 in the library of the Ethiopian Economics Association, where I picked up a copy of his 2001 book Economics As Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond and began skimming the introduction. Back in the US, I bought a copy and read it cover to cover. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable take on the role of economists within society, and one that’s especially relevant in light of the current financial crisis.
Bob, it’s a pleasure to have you on board. Welcome!
Today the Mercatus Center released a new paper by Peter Gordon and Richard Little, both of the University of Southern California. The paper, “Building Walls Against Bad Infrastructure
Policy in New Orleans,” is the latest policy primer in the Mercatus Policy Series.
Written as part of the Mercatus Center’s Gulf Coast Recovery Project, Gordon and Little focus on how Louisiana can think more holistically about risk management and disaster mitigation. But the research is germane far beyond the Pelican State and should be a useful tool for any state or local government that relies on levees, floodworks, and other protections against natural disasters. Structural controls are never foolproof, they argue, and along with insurance, risk transfer mechanisms, and redundant defenses, are only part of a larger system to mitigate against natural disasters.
In the paper, Gordon and Little suggest how the private sector can be better involved in mitigation against disaster and how this should inform state and local governments:
As New Orleans rebuilds from the damage of Hurricane Katrina, local and national policy makers are attempting to ensure the levees are rebuilt better and stronger. While such efforts to ensure more reliable flood protection are certainly understandable given the region’s history, they should not preclude serious consideration of the implications of excessive reliance on structural controls. More comprehensive approaches will provide decision makers at all levels—from elected officials to individual homeowners—with incentives to manage flood risk effectively.
Read the whole thing here.