Saturday, February 28, 2004

A look at a shanty town

Title: Portland tent city declared legal
Source: CNN
Date: February 27, 2004

The article describes a one-acre tent city in Portland, OR that houses 60 people in tents and shacks. There are many people who support the tent city because it offers a sort of rudimentary housing to people who previously did not have housing. There are also many people who are quite opposed to it.

Let's ignore that debate, and instead ask a question. Is this the start of a trend? As the concentration of wealth accelerates and unemployed people are unable to find jobs, people at the low end of the income scale find it harder and harder to afford any sort of "traditional" housing. Simple economics says that one of six things will happen:
  • The government will create a system to provide housing subsidies or housing vouchers to the bottom 30% of households.
  • The goverment will start building and operating welfare dormatories (as is already happening in NYC)
  • Individuals and families will start doubling up, tripling up, etc. in single-family dwellings.
  • The concentration of wealth will be reversed through taxes and/or legislation so that wealth in this nation is distributed more equitably across the population.
  • The number of homeless people and families will rise.
  • Shanty towns like this will start to become common, as they are in third-world nations today and as they were during the Great Depression.
If the concentration of wealth leaves so little money for the bottom end of wage earners that they can no longer afford traditional housing, then some cheaper form of housing must arise for them. Shanty towns are the cheapest housing possible short of living on the street.


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