A Campaign for Evil

For years, the city of Houston has pursued various schemes to make housing more affordable for low-income residents. Despite spending millions of tax dollars, that effort has done little more than create jobs for the administrators of these programs and pay fines to the federal government. Indeed, the Chronicle reports that nearly 29 percent of the $96 million spent by the city on “affordable housing” since 2007 has gone to administrative costs and fines.

If this isn’t bad enough, while engaging in a campaign to create “affordable housing,” the city hasn’t even bothered to define the term. Apparently, although city officials can’t tell us what “affordable housing” means, they have no problem wasting millions of dollars in a futile attempt to fulfill their nebulous goal.

Interestingly, the city doesn’t know how much money its actually spent on “affordable housing.” At the beginning of the fiscal year, the city thought it had $7 million in unallocated housing funds. The city’s economic development office, which manages the housing fund’s revenue, thought the amount was closer to $20 million. After ten months of research, the Chronicle concluded that the city has $46 million in the housing fund. In a gross understatement, City Auditor Courtney Smith called the housing department’s record keeping “sloppy.”

Over the past decade the city has used its “affordable housing” fund to subsidize the construction, purchase or rental of 2,007 homes. Today, fewer than a quarter of those homes are still classified as “affordable housing” (whatever that means). The best anyone can tell, after receiving subsidies from the city, the owners sold their homes at market rates and reaped a windfall at the expense of taxpayers.

It would be easy to say that this is just another example of government incompetence, and that is certainly true. But there is a more fundamental issue involved. “Affordable housing” is another in a series of altruistic, feel-good government programs. And like other altruistic programs, objective standards cannot be applied.

While city officials want us to believe that Houston has an “affordable housing” crisis, they can’t even tell us what the term means. They want us to spend millions of tax dollars on an undefined “problem.” And this reveals the essence of altruism.

Altruism holds that we must place the interests of others before our own self-interest. According to altruism, we must sacrifice our values to others. More fundamentally, altruism holds that we must place the judgment of others before our own judgment. According to altruism, we must sacrifice our mind to others. And this is precisely what the city’s housing campaign accomplishes.

According to altruism, if city officials say that low-income Houstonians are in need of “affordable housing,” then taxpayers must be forced to sacrifice our money to fulfill that need. Our own judgment on the matter is irrelevant–we are forced to defer to the judgment of city officials.

The advocates of “affordable housing” present their campaign as noble. But any campaign that forces individuals to act contrary to their own judgment is not noble. It is evil.

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