Friday, April 22, 2005

The Limits Of Vouchers 

Libertarians are known to love vouchers. They are of course the key ingredient to our fix for public education and they are proposed as part of medical savings accounts for people of low income.

However, there is one area where those of us who support the free market find vouchers objectionable and that is when it comes to housing. Section 8, the federal government program that allows disadvantaged tenants to rent homes in places they normally could not afford, does not work.

The problem here is that housing values are influenced greatly by who lives in the neighborhood. And when Section 8 vouchers are given to people who don't know how to take proper responsibility for the property in which they live then it can have devastating effects on home prices. I know first hand because at one period during our time in Reston our townhouse community did have some Section 8 tenants and it was also during this period that I served on our homeowner's board of directors.

It was a mess. While I'm always careful not to generalize it is true that all of those who served on the board knew which owners had accepted the vouchers by the way their homes were maintained and the activities going on at these sites. Word got around that the drug arrest the prior evening did take place there. The loud music and trash on the yard were originating from the same locations.

But please don't just accept my criticism of the Section 8 program. The Washington Post has 2 letters to the editor today about the issue.

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