I was listening to a podcast this morning, and they brought up a topic that I hadn’t stopped to think much on before. Well, I had thought of each part of this separately, but I hadn’t put them together.
There are somewhere between 1 and 3 million homeless people in the U.S. right now. It’s a number that is impossible to verify, because some are adults that are living with their parents or other relatives, some are living in those pay-by-the-week motels, some are couch-surfing with friends, and a surprising number live unsheltered – in tents, under freeways, etc. “Homeless” is as difficult to accurately count as “unemployed”, but no matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of people.
At the same time, there are, depending on what source you read, between 16 and 18 million vacant homes in the country. Again, there are myriad reasons they are vacant, but a large percentage are foreclosures / bank-owned. Millions of perfectly good homes sitting empty because someone could not afford to pay the mortgage.
I am certainly not the first to think that there should be a way to do some match-making. Clearly, not every homeless person is going to be able (or willing) to take care of a house or pay the basic utilities and property taxes; but what about some sort of subsidized housing arrangement for those that do have some income and could pay something even if it’s less than what the bank would like to get for the house? Wouldn’t it be better for the banks and the neighborhoods to have someone living in a house rather than letting the property fall into disrepair? I could understand having limits to how long a person could live in one of these, or maintenance agreements (must mow the lawn, etc.), some sort of qualifiers to make sure a bunch of crack-heads wouldn’t trash the place, but it seems to me there ought to be a way to put some of these vacant homes in to the public housing arena for low-income people. Even if the rent only covered the property taxes, basic utilities, and a fraction of what the bank was owed on the property – some money has got to be better than none, and I’m always hearing about how there isn’t enough low-income housing to meet the demand.
I’m not suggesting we give houses to people that don’t want to work, but there should be a way to help those that want to be helped get a place to live, regain some dignity, and enable them to have a little pride in something, while providing tax revenue to cities and allowing the banks to recoup at least a little of their losses.
It really makes you think about house prices, too, and how the value of a building varies from place to place. Two identical houses that sells for $50,000 in one state will sell for $300,000 in another. How much is that house actually worth?
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