Poor People Enter Around Back

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Note: My participation in comments of the posts over the next few days (and I have one scheduled for today, tomorrow, and Linky Friday) will be limited on account of the move.Report

  2. Avatar j r says:

    I’m not sure that it’s the door so much as it is the front desk and lobby attendants. These are amenities. They cost money to maintain. The people who work at the front desk have to be paid. When you go from providing amenities for 200 units to 300 units, those costs go up. And since, there is a ceiling to what the management can charge those extra 100 units, they limit the amenities. That’s not discrimination anymore than it is discrimination not to be able to sit in first class when you’ve only purchased an economy ticket.

    By the way, I just moved into a building that may have a poor door. I say may because I’m not sure what the definition is. I rent a unit in a condo building that has an adjoining rental unit. From the street, it looks like one big building, but the rental building has a separate entrance and separate elevators. There may be a way to go from one building to the next without using the street, but I don’t know.

    This is often portrayed as a class issue, but I’m not sure how much it is. The people coming in and out of the condo entrance look an awful lot like the people coming in and out of the rental entrance. Me for instance, I can afford to rent an apartment from a condo owner, but I couldn’t afford to buy one of the units. My guess is that most of the people in the rental unit are like me: they make a comfortable living, enough to rent an apartment in a very nice building, but don’t have the wealth to buy something in Manhattan. There is no reasonable definition of poor that should include these people.Report

  3. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I don’t really see the uproar as anything but an issue of envy. Or as our forebears would have said, the leveling spirit.

    If the less well off are forced to go to a true back entrance, a dingy unlit door off a garbage strewn alley, then we might have something to talk about. It’s surely not necessary to actually degrade the poorer tenants. But let’s say the building is a corner building, and on one street there’s a reasonably decent entrance for the subsidized tenants, and around the corner on the other street there’s a grand entrance for the full-ride tenants. What’s the problem, then?

    I used to live in a building that wrapped around the corner like that. On our side of the corner was the entrance for the apartments on our side of the building, and around the corner was the entrance for the apartments on that side of the building (there were no direct connections from one side to the other. Neither was a luxury entrance, but why would I have cared if the other one had been? If the building had had a pool/gym/spa, and it was only for the people on the other side of the building and they were paying much more, why would I have cared?

    And depending on the frontage of the building, even if it all faces one street, one could easily have separate entrances designed such that the “poor door” isn’t inherently degrading. One could easily design the exterior of the building so that the “poor door” looks like it’s entering a different building.

    Granted, if the government’s going to subsidize you, they can put a lot of stupid restrictions on you. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to accept the subsidies. But the complaints about the separate entrances strikes me as ridiculous, a first world problem run amuk and booted into the realm of Serious Public Policy ConcernsTMReport

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:

      Isn’t whiskey the leveling spirit?Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley says:

      My understanding is that the subsidized rental units are legally mandated by the city, so the developer didn’t have the option of not building them.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

      Are you saying why would they care even if they were *expected* by the building owners to enter through the lesser entry – like, signs saying “If you live in Apartment X thru Y, we’d really prefer you enter over there,” nastygrams for those who don’t, etc.? Or just why would they care if the entrance that was most convenient for them to enter through given the location of their apartment in the building happened to be less grand?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It’s trivially easy to design the building so that nastygrams aren’t necessary. So I’d prefer that. But if the building isn’t designed that way, nobody has to live there. Obvious shaming becomes part of the price tenants pay. Some people will find it a price worth paying, others won’t. I’d let them sort themselves out rather than passing a law to spare some folks’ feelings.

        Bear in mind I’m far more likely to be using the poor entrance myself. I can’t imagine caring a lot as long as as it’s a decent entrance.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Of course, you need to remember that the kind of people who think it’s bad to have separate doors for certain tenants also believe that people don’t have choices in life but merely react to circumstances, which means that the people who end up in a building with “poor doors” would have no option to live anywhere else.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

      I don’t mind the different doors. One who is rich can have the “fancy” entrance.
      But putting the pool and stuff offlimits is poor public policy. It is a relatively bad idea
      to keep people isolated from their neighbors, and leads to bad feelings all round.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I’m struck by the dichotomy between a beautiful, grand entryway and what is likely to be a rather modest apartment. Someone going to a rent controlled apartment through the full-freight foyer will have it put right in their face that the building is aimed at people wealthier than themselves.

    I suppose there’s a lot of possible reactions to this — Veblenism and class envy; gloating and giddiness at one’s good fortune; modesty and shrinking from notice in intimidation — but few seem all that healthy.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

      If they live there, why should they think that the grand entryway isn’t aimed at them?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        …Unless someone tells them straight-up it isn’t, that is.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I’m guessing it doesn’t lead to their apartments: hallways end, elevators go to the wrong floors, etc.Report

      • This actually raises a good question. If it’s just a matter of layout, and anybody can enter any door they want, then that’s one thing. If they physically segregated, that’s another (and dependent on how necessary that was). If they use keycards that deny access or simply tell you not to even though you could, that’s not kosher.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @will-truman

        In some cases, we aren’t just talking about so-called “poor doors” but developers have also put forth designs where the affordable housing units were built in a separate building altogether, albeit attached to the other one.

        People I work with see this kind of stuff all the time since they focus on NYC multifamily deals.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew do you/they ever see socio-economic studies on the results, compared to mixed buildings? Does it trend to blended opportunity or two Americas?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        meh, that response was supposed to be to @dave
        @michael-drew forgive my distraction.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @zic

        do you/they ever see socio-economic studies on the results, compared to mixed buildings? Does it trend to blended opportunity or two Americas?

        Are there studies? Even so, I don’t really see it.

        Since we’re talking about both Manhattan and new construction, even if there’s a separate access for affordable housing tenants, the overall quality of those units will far exceed some of the other housing stock in the city (i.e. a lot of the pre-WWII walk-up type buildings in the boroughs). They may not have top-flight amenities but they will be very livable units. They’re going to have to be built in accordance with the city’s regulations, which I assume are pretty stringent.

        Also, as j-r mentioned, a lot of these “affordable housing” units can go to people well above middle class wages.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @dave @j-r

        You are both right; there is a terrible tendency to conflate affordable housing with low-income housing in many discussions. They are not the same thing, policy wise.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @zic

        At least in NYC, there are buildings and/or units that are meant to be “affordable” and come with strings attached about maximum income. However, it is usually a pretty-generous maximum income like a 2 income household can earn up to 200,000 to 300,000 a year sometimes. Now often times people who buy this units do start with modest incomes and jobs but they could grow. If you ever read the NY Times column called the Hunt, you can find that many of these units end up going to new or relatively recent college grads whose parents help them with the down payment. There are also actors/food servers who get to own because of this program (and potentially some parental help).

        Now I don’t know if there are income reporting requirements and whether they force you to sell if your income goes above the maximum for X number of years.

        This does not seem like a good plan to me.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Let’s say that we establish that “poor doors” are just the way things freakin’ are and them what have subsidized apartments best spend more time saying “I am pleased I got this subsidized apartment” and less time saying “I can’t believe I don’t have access to the bidet room!”

    Will this result in more buildings with subsidized apartments, fewer, or about the same?

    Let’s say that we establish that “poor doors” are slaps in the face of an enlightened society and something up with which we shall not put as a society and we rule that “If you live in this building, you get treated the same as if you are in the penthouse or in apartment 4B!”

    Will this result in more buildings with subsidized apartments, fewer, or about the same?

    My prejudices are such that I tend to think that “poor doors” are something that will allow for more subsidized apartments… or, at least, the attitude that says “no poor doors!” is one that will result in fewer.

    As such, I’m wondering what the point of subsidized apartments is. If I know what the point is, I might be better at knowing whether a “poor door” helps or hinders this point.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

      If I felt like eliminating poor doors would actually jeopardize the development of this sort of housing, my view would be different. That’s one of the reasons I would be willing to work with the developers on things that actually cost them significant money (or might prevent the creation of amenities, though maybe that’s in a different pocket). The doors, though? That strikes me as feeding problematic impulses without much genuine utility.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        I don’t know about “jeopardize” as much as “limit, reduce, or otherwise keep from being as many as there would be otherwise”. Like, I’m not arguing that this would *ELIMINATE* subsidized apartments or anything like that.

        Just that “poor doors” would result in there being more of them.Report

      • I just don’t see it. Like it or not, the city has extreme leverage in negotiations when it comes to building housing. If Developer A scoffs at allowing people to enter in any door they want, Developer B will probably take it.

        It’s a problem if you’re talking about things that would wipe out their profit margins, like saying all units must be so subsidized. But doors don’t fall into that category. Amenities maybe do, which is why I think some compromise is in order. “Subsidized apartments do not come with access to the laundry room, though for $x/mo you can access them.” (With “x” being a reasonable number, in accordance with the costs of the laundry room.)Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman

        Like it or not, the city has extreme leverage in negotiations when it comes to building housing. If Developer A scoffs at allowing people to enter in any door they want, Developer B will probably take it.

        Most of these developers are politically connected and probably helped the people in positions of power get there. I think it’s the other way around.Report

      • If that were straightforwardly so, I’m not sure why the lower income apartments exist.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        It’s been pointed out that the law is that a certain percentage of any new apartment building must have a certain percentage of “affordable” (that is: non-market rate) apartments.

        It strikes me that the separate entrances might allow for (even) higher rents on the other apartments… which would allow for more people to say “hey, we could make money building an apartment building…”Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman

        If that were straightforwardly so, I’m not sure why the lower income apartments exist.

        Developers may have political connections, but even they can’t thwart the will of the people and few do a better job of whipping people into a frenzy than the housing advocates and tenant rights groups. Few do a better job of turning the Rent Guidelines Board meetings into a circus than these groups.

        Since many of these developers also own apartments, chances are that they’re already on the shit lists of these groups.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jaybird says:

      You’re writing as though developers considered all their many options for providing amenities (and other rich-people-live-here signaling methods) and settled on “poor doors” as their top choice.

      What critics of the idea are saying is that poor doors exist as a punishment, a slap in the face to a city that mandated a certain number of units be set aside for subsidized renters instead of market-rate tenants. It is not actually even about the tenants themselves, either the rich ones or the poor ones; it’s about the developer saying “you can make me eat the shit sandwich, but I can still pick how big a bite I take”.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

      Why don’t we call it a Rich Door. The Good Kind of People get a special door and those others get just enough to know they are less. We talked all around snobbery in Saul’s posts about art but a blatant example of snobbery like this seems far more obvious then reading some book.

      I can’t see how “poor doors” will lead to more or less homes for poor people. Having those doors isn’t going to make developers more likly to build units for low income folk. However it will make the Better People feel better about being above those “other” people.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Jaybird says:

      @jaybird

      My prejudices are such that I tend to think that “poor doors” are something that will allow for more subsidized apartments… or, at least, the attitude that says “no poor doors!” is one that will result in fewer.

      My view is that developers that sell condos and rent market rate units know the buyer/renter base well enough to know that the buyers don’t want to share the high-amenity space with the affordable housing tenants (which is why some buildings that have amenities limit those amenities to market rate tenants).

      Developers compete with other projects in the market and if they offer separate entrances and amenities, it’s almost suicidal to their returns if they don’t do the same.

      Meh, this whole argument is the nature of the Manhattan real estate market. We could build thousands of affordable housing units with stunning views of Central Park and people will still find reasons to complain. That’s the nature of the beast here.Report

  6. Avatar Murali says:

    @will-truman
    If a marijuana farmer managed to exploit a loophole to grow and sell marijuana, would you say that he should be prosecuted even though you think that marijuana should not be prohibited?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Murali says:

      I’m not talking about prosecuting it. I’m talking about – at least – recognizing this as a loophole and closing it. Maybe investigating whether there is actually any recourse for places that have already been built. Either the contract as written, or blackballing them for future developments if they don’t reconsider the policy (this would depend on whether this would prevent future development). But if there’s not, there’s not. Revisit the issue going forward, then.Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/09/02/new_york_incomes_you_might_still_be_rich_even_if_you_can_t_afford_to_live.html

    There is a nice little tool on income distribution for the 5 boroughs down below.

    What is interesting to me is that 17 percent of Manhattanites earn over 200,000 dollars a year. In the rest of the US, 4.6 percent of Americans earn over 200,000 a year. Also interesting is that more Manhattanites earn under 10,000 than between 10,000 to 14,999 a year. The outer boroughs are much more middle class.

    That being said I am largely against the idea of poor doors because it seems like a developer going out of their way to make a distinction by adding an extra element to the building.Report

    • Perhaps stereotypically, I think of this group as people living there on someone else’s dime. Grady or Ashley whose parents in North Carolina are fitting the bill while they are doing some unpaid internship at Fashion International.

      Minimum wage, working part time, gets you above $10k a year.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        A lot of the people making under 10,000 are undocumented aliens that aren’t exactly in a position to demand minimum wages or at least feel its in their best interest not to.Report

      • If I were an illegal immigrant making sub-minimum wages, I’d think that NYC would be one of the last places I’d want to be.

        When I lived in an apartment complex in Colosse, a lot of my neighbors were immigrants either from south of the border or Asia. I suspect a lot of them did not have their paperwork in order. You could pretty clearly see bunk beds in the living rooms, and sketching it out they probably lived 10 people to an apartment.

        At that complex, though, the apartments were 1200-1600 square feet (for about $650-800 a month). The sizes nand prices of complexes in Colosse mean you can do that. Less so for NYC.

        On the other hand, if you are here illegally but have relatives here legally that you can stay with, that’s something of a different matter. If I recall, though, the numbers he refers to are “household incomes” rather than personal incomes, so they like people living with their parents, wouldn’t register.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        They tend to live in arrangements that aren’t strictly in conformance to the housing code. New York City and you don’t need a driver’s license to get around like you do elsewhere. This saves them a sufficient amount of money and encounters with government. New York City also has a policy of not working with immigration officials to deport people.Report

      • I don’t think the bunk beds in the living room aren’t in conformance with regs, either (certainly wasn’t in conformance with the contract we signed to live there), but there was room to do it. Space in NYC is in such a premium I don’t see how you logistically live even remotely as cheap as in other places, whether officials are looking or not.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman

        I don’t think there are 100,000 unpaid interns in Manhattan or close to it. Nor do I think college and graduate students are usually included. Lee is probably right that you have a lot of people who are undocumented aliens but also sex workers, junkies, homeless, people on disability, etc.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman

        The undocumented immigratns probably have various support structures and ways of getting work in NYC.Report

      • Getting a job at the apartment complex in Colosse seemed to mostly be a matter of going to the corner and waiting for pickups. Demand seemed to outstrip supply. (Here might be the argument that they pay less than NYC, but if we’re talking about incomes lower than $10k/yr, I have my doubts…)Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman

        I think you are underestimating the appeal of anonymity that a city like NYC or SF can provide. It is easy to fade into the background.Report

      • That sort of thing might put South Dakota off the table, but not Colosse. (For a real world reference, you can probably consider anything in size between Charleston or Birmingham to Tampa Bay or Houston.) Of course, a lot of unauthorized immigrants do live in those kinds of places.

        If your earning power is so limited, NYC seems to be a really odd place to park your boat. I can only assume they do because they just like it or they want to be near family that is there.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will,
        sure, but MANY MORE are working in the underground economy — saw quite a few last time I was in NYC.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        At least in the Chinese community, New York City is used as a type of home base for life in the United States. Even if they work elsewhere, lots of Chinese immigrants like to return to New York for business or entertainment reasons.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Also poor might be a misnomer here. Some of the people in the lottery might be legitmately poor. Others are the middle class people that are necessary for any area. New York needs administrative assistants, teachers, office managers, nurse aides, EMTs, firefighters, electricians, carpenters, police officers, etc.

    I generally would like these people not to have to commute long distances to get to work as much as possible. You see people make huge commutes in the Bay Area because it doesn’t start to get affordable until you go out past BART and to Vacaville or Fairfield. Fairfield is about 36 miles from SF.Report

    • I agree, but “poor door” is such a catchy phrase.

      But if this is a criticism of my general criticism of the general policy, while it might be nice for teachers and the like not to have to commute… welcome to NYC. That’s a cost of the area. If I were wanting to use public policy to combat that cost, I would probably choose a different means other than this one.Report

  9. Avatar zic says:

    We tried building affordable housing that grouped people together, tenements and all their problems resulted. Conventional wisdom holds that people learn a lot about economics from their neighbors. So a ‘poor door’ that segregates goes a long way to diminishing that learning. And I’d posit it’s a two-way street, the well heeled have some learning to do here, as well. A real face for someone economically struggling might well be a good thing.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

      On the other hand, maybe the important part is not how many doors there are but how many laundry rooms. Entry ways are transitional spaces, not somewhere that tenants would expect to hang out and experience social interaction. A laundry room, on the other hand, is somewhere that a person might go and stay for some time.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Do fancy new NY condos actually have laundry rooms? I’d expect in-unit washers and dryers if I was paying the sorts of prices those buildings charge.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Jim,
        Yup, this is exactly my stance on things. Let the rich folks have a bit of “flash” to impress their guests. But the rooftop deck? The Pool? Open to everyone.

        Which, after the negative publicity, seems to be what they’ve decided on.

        Publicity works! (knowing a PR guy will get you many goodies!)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        @alan-scott, many fancy new NY condos have both laundry rooms and in-built washers and dryers. The laundry rooms are for bigger items like mattress pads.Report

  10. Avatar j r says:

    @will-truman,

    I am not quite sure what your objection is. Part of the problem is that the term “poor door” doesn’t tell us a whole lot and the article that you linked to is a little light on details. There are generally two models for mixed-income developments. There are buildings like the one where I live, where the rental units are a whole other address with a separate entrance and separate elevators and hallways. And there are buildings where subsidized housing is interspersed with market-rate units. This article describes those kinds of developments: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/realestate/affordable-housing-in-new-yorks-luxury-buildings.html?_r=0

    The building in the linked article appears to be describing something closer to the former setup. It says:

    Because of the building’s layout, some residents would have a long walk to elevators if there were only one entrance.

    This implies that there are separate elevators for the rental units, but it’s not exactly clear if that is the case. If it is though, this isn’t just about forcing the subsidized tenants through a separate door, but about maintaining the development as two separate buildings, which makes practical sense when you consider that one is a high-priced luxury condo building and another is a subsidized below-market rate rental unit.

    I am unclear about which part of this that you have a problem.Report

  11. Avatar LWA says:

    I am sure the separate entrance is quite legal and all sorts of justifications can be made for it.

    But it remains true that the single driving factor behind it is the desire for social exclusion. In this regard, it isn’t really any different than VIP entrances and rooms- its a method by which one segment of society strives to separate themselves from another.

    This is eternal and there isn’t any way I am aware of that can eliminate it.
    But it also is dangerous, and if allowed to grow outside a narrow window, can be crippling to our entire society.

    I suppose it would be nice if we lived in a universe where humans would shrug and say “I don’t care if I can’t sit at their table, I can eat my lunch over here”.
    But we don’t live there, and never will.

    Note that I don’t have a good solution for this. I just think its well worth denouncing and applying social ostracism to those who do this sort of thing. Solidarity, brotherhood, the notion that we are all kin of some form, is an urgent priority for any nation but isn’t very easily attainted.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

      @lwa Much (most?) of the time, there really isn’t much that can be done about it. Here, though, the government has to put up permits on a very, very finite source. Rightly or wrongly, they decided to tie the permits to mixed-income development. It seems quite reasonable, to me, for the government to determine what that means and it doesn’t mean separate entryways.

      If @j-r is right and there are actually real logistical reasons for this to be the case, I’m definitely open to hearing that as a defense of the developers, and it would change my views.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to LWA says:

      But it remains true that the single driving factor behind it is the desire for social exclusion.

      That does not appear to be the case at all. It looks much more like a situation where developers essentially have to build to different kinds of building under one roof. And the economics and logistics of that task often make it logical, maybe even necessary, to have two different entrances.

      If there is evidence somewhere that this is just about social elitism, I’d like to see it. Most of the news stories that I’ve seen on this issue are hopelessly vague.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to j r says:

        Buildings with a different mix of tenants are built all the time, with a single entrance. The idea that the logistical need for a separate entrance exactly coincided with the lower rate units strains credibility.
        In most cases, the design strategy is to pick the least desirable unit- one that lacks a view, or much sunlight, or has an awkward layout- then deem that the affordable unit.

        And the idea that wealthy tenants wouldn’t want their own entrance is preposterous, given what we know about human nature.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        Buildings with a different mix of tenants are built all the time, with a single entrance. The idea that the logistical need for a separate entrance exactly coincided with the lower rate units strains credibility.

        OK. This is not a building with a different mix of tenants. This is a condo building, with what is essentially a separate rental wing attached. So, I’m not sure what it is exactly that strains credibility.

        It sounds like you are saying something along the lines of Facts be damned! I know human natureReport

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to LWA says:

      I just think its well worth denouncing and applying social ostracism to those who do this sort of thing. Solidarity, brotherhood, the notion that we are all kin of some form, is an urgent priority for any nation but isn’t very easily attainted.

      Yeah, I don’t usually say this, but I think the solution would have to come through organized protest. The logistics of the poor door are just too complicated for the government to create a policy that’s both effective and consistent. I’m sure developers would find other loop-holes in the style of the VIP entrance. But have a bunch of drum-circles and this guy protesting outside the rich door (and NOT the poor door) for a week, and you’ll get a response. The policy is meant to promote class integration, and I think it’s entirely reasonable for people to protest those developers that resist integration through loopholes.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA says:

      …its a method by which one segment of society strives to separate themselves from another.
      …I just think its well worth … applying social ostracism to those who do this sort of thing.

      Because it’s ok when we do it.Report

  12. Avatar zic says:

    This whole business reminds me of the Turkish Embassy and the ambassador’s son, Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records.Report

  13. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Like most people here, I have to admit I find the whole lotteries apartment law/ordinance rather silly.

    That being said, I’m a little surprised by the amount of full support by some and semi-support by others, or the argument that being horrified by a ‘poor door’ it just “class envy.”

    I’ll let everyone tell me why this analogy is terrible, but the first thing that jumps to my mind is when kids are bussed to be integrated into better school districts. The thought of having a separate school entrance for those kids would be despicable — regardless of how much their parents paid in taxes vs. everyone else. And even if you make the separate entrance more legal by imagining that the school is private, it doesn’t make it any less loathsome.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      When we first moved to Deseret, we considered two apartment complexes. One of which had beautiful marble floors, oak handrails, and was just gorgeous, but the apartments were tiny. Rent was about $185 a month. The rooms were tiny. Half of them didn’t include bathrooms. But you know, that grand entrance… the feel and gestalt of the place. It made me feel like living there would make me feel less poor. I might be renting a room for less than $200 a month, but it at least had class. That may be stupid, may be representative of “class envy”… but such things matter. I would have been able to look at my place and say “Well, if nothing else, we have that.”

      I’d respond pretty unfavorably to taking that away without some sort of reason.

      We ended up choosing the other place, because that place had a curfew that didn’t abide by my wife’s work schedule. It was a dump. There was no grand entrance. But, you know, that was okay because that’s what the place was, it kept the place cheap, and it wasn’t a part of some deliberate effort to keep me away from the up-class.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I think the analogy is a good one, but what if the “poor door” for kids means that schools are much more likely to actually join the bussing program? Is there ever a trade-off that justifies it? I would say that point is probably when bussing is more about getting kids to walk through the same doors than it is about getting kids to learn in the same school. Where in that continuum are we for poor doors in apartment complexes?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to trizzlor says:

        @trizzlor I think my own personal response boils down to this: Replace the phrase “poor door” with the phrase “door for non-whites” in all of those questions, and see how it sounds.

        And yes, I get that for many that is apples and oranges. For me though, it’s part and parcel of the same ugly issue.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to trizzlor says:

        “Replace the phrase “poor door” with the phrase “door for non-whites” in all of those questions, and see how it sounds.”

        When I do stuff like this you get all mad and threaten to ban me.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to trizzlor says:

        Jim,
        lol. There’s still parts of SF where I can walk unmolested because I’m white, that a black millionaire can’t go without getting harrassed.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @tod-kelly

      Does Portland have affordable housing issues? How does Portland handle public housing?

      Questions are based on sincere curiosity because I know the issues facing SF and NYC but not really anywhere else.Report

  14. Avatar Kolohe says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/07/31/when-the-poor-want-their-own-door/

    Take, for instance, Portner Place, a complex of garden-style Section 8 apartments near the popular intersection of U and 14th streets in Northwest Washington, D.C. The land is slated for redevelopment into a roughly 350-unit mixed-income property that will include two wings: one for market-rate professionals eager to live near the U Street scene, and the other for Portner Place’s existing residents, plus another 48 units of affordable housing meant for households making less than 60 percent of the area median income. The wings will have separate entrances, off separate streets.

    Portner Place’s current tenants requested this.

    Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Kolohe says:

      Come on. Don’t go ruining a perfectly good narrative that everyone can get good an outraged about with any sort of factual or specific knowledge that might counter that narrative.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r says:

        @j-r Does that ruin the narrative? I’m not sure it does.

        It’s like when you point out stark racial segregation within cities and someone points out that a lot of black people like living “with their own kind” and so really no harm no foul.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r says:

        To me it makes a huge difference if the party would would consider wronged by something are actually asking for it.

        In this case, it does undermine the rationale for the original housing policy, but given the policy being what it is, I don’t see much good in insisting in an integration nobody involved actually finds preferable.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        What ruins the narrative is that this is not segregation.

        Read the NYTimes link that I posted above about 80/20 rental buildings. In those buildings the affordable units are interspersed with the market-rate buildings. Everyone uses the same entrance and mostly has use of the same amenities (in one of the buildings there was an extra charge for the gym).

        The separate entrances are being built, or considered, in developments where the subsidized housing is being built essentially as an add-on to the market rate housing and the separate entrances are part of running and maintaining two separate types of unit. If you are forcing residents of the same building to use different entrances, that is segregation. If you have separate entrances to what are essentially separate buildings that is not segregation anymore than having first class on an airplane is segregation.

        The “poor door” is basically a myth. Unless people have become so radically egalitarian that they believe that no commercial enterprise should be able to charge different rates for different levels of goods and services.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to j r says:

        If you have separate entrances to what are essentially separate buildings that is not segregation anymore than having first class on an airplane is segregation.

        This is the part I’ve been trying to wrap my head around.

        If there was a separate ramp to board the plane for coach, I’d actually kinda prefer it…I don’t like passing through first class and seeing what they have that I can’t afford. They’d probably prefer not to see me either. But walk past them I do, via the same ramp/door. We are both enriched by the experience, I guess.

        I’ve stayed in hotels where the richies stay on the top couple floors – without the right keycard, I can’t even get the elevator to go all the way up there, and walk through their plush halls.

        But why would I even want to go up there, unless I can also stay in their opulent rooms (which – again – I can’t afford)?

        Are there separate doors at stadiums for the the people who have box seats? Even if they all enter by the same door at the bottom, at some point there’s a keyed door (or a velvet rope and a bouncer, or whatever) that keeps the hoi polloi out of the [Room X] that they can’t afford (damn you, strip-club VIP champagne room!).

        Gated communities, in which there’s a nice pool/clubhouse, for the residents who paid a premium to live in that place and use its facilities (but not me, even though I’m hot and live right down the street.)

        I understand that there may be people who are against all these things and for maximum egalitarianism in all things, and for them, concern about this particular issue is consistent.

        But for everybody else: what makes an apartment or condo with (A.) some expensive units with (A1) included amenities in the contract, and some (B) cheaper units with (B1) reduced amenities in the contract, explicitly structured to physically group A with A1 and B with B1, so different from these other examples?

        Calling it a “poor door” is catchy (it rhymes, so it must be true) but what makes it egregious in a way these other things are not?Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to j r says:

        @Glyph : Yeah, I don’t think it’s fair to equate economic discrimination with racial discrimination. In part because we experience the former any time we’re priced out of something we want, and in part because wealth is still something that is earned (at least to a much greater extent than race).

        Still, the goal of this policy seems to be promoting cross-class living, and the developers are accepting tax-breaks to support the policy. So loopholes should be discouraged as with anything else, or the policy should be scrapped. Don’t want the challenge of poor people living in your house, don’t take the tax-break (or, you know, vote with your feet).

        But walk past them I do, via the same ramp/door. We are both enriched by the experience, I guess.

        Without going into detail, there are things one can do to cope with this that involve eating lots of beans before the flight.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        Still, the goal of this policy seems to be promoting cross-class living, and the developers are accepting tax-breaks to support the policy. So loopholes should be discouraged as with anything else, or the policy should be scrapped.

        Can you point to one piece of evidence that supports the idea that the purpose of this policy is to have people of all income levels living in the same building?

        The purpose of the policy is to incentive developers to build more units of affordable housing. The expense of building anything new in NYC, coupled with the prices that the market will bear guarantee that no developer will ever build anything but “luxury” units without being bribed or cajoled into building less expensive, less “luxurious” units.

        If I walked around the streets of New York asking people if they would be interested in renting an apartment on the Upper West Side in a brand new luxury development at 25 to 50% below market rate, but that their apartment would be in a separate wing of a condo development with a separate entrance and fewer amenities , how many people are going to turn me down for fear of feeling like a second-class citizen?

        All this outrage over something that does not even exist is just plain vexing.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        Still, the goal of this policy seems to be promoting cross-class living, and the developers are accepting tax-breaks to support the policy. So loopholes should be discouraged as with anything else, or the policy should be scrapped.

        Can you point to one piece of evidence that supports the idea that the purpose of this policy is to have people of all income levels living in the same building?

        The purpose of the policy is to incentive developers to build more units of affordable housing. The expense of building anything new in NYC, coupled with the prices that the market will bear guarantee that no developer will ever build anything but “luxury” units without being bribed or cajoled into building less expensive, less “luxurious” units.

        If I walked around the streets of New York asking people if they would be interested in renting an apartment on the Upper West Side in a brand new luxury development at 25 to 50% below market rate, but that their apartment would be in a separate wing of a condo development with a separate entrance and fewer amenities , how many people are going to turn me down for fear of feeling like a second-class citizen?

        All this outrage over something that does not even exist is just plain vexing.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to j r says:

        @j-r : Can you point to one piece of evidence that supports the idea that the purpose of this policy is to have people of all income levels living in the same building?

        The section-8 housing program (which is either the model or the actual program that leads to the “poor door” loopholes) was established as we know it now by The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. If you look on pg.25 of this Congressional summary of housing and community development laws (http://financialservices.house.gov/media/pdf/108-c.pdf) you will find the findings and purposes of the Act. Among the findings:

        the growth of population in metropolitan and other urban areas, and the concentration of persons of lower income in central cities

        Among the purposes:

        the reduction of the isolation of income groups within communities and geographical areas and the promotion of an increase in the diversity and vitality of neighborhoods through the spatial deconcentration of housing opportunities for persons of lower income and the revitalization of deteriorating or deteriorated neighborhoods

        If we go even further back to the Housing Act of 1937 (which is the origin of the HCD Act) we find the definition of deconcentration (pg.231):

        A public housing agency may not, in complying with the requirements under paragraph (2), concentrate very low-income families (or other families with relatively low incomes) in public housing dwelling units in certain public housing projects or certain buildings within projects … A public housing agency shall submit with its annual public housing agency plan under section 5A an admissions policy designed to provide for deconcentration of poverty and income-mixing by bringing higher income tenants into lower income projects and lower income tenants into higher income projects.

        Of course, local municipalities interpret the Act in their own way, but class-integration was certainly a major objective of this policy at it’s inception.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to j r says:

        @j-r : how many people are going to turn me down for fear of feeling like a second-class citizen?

        This is a secondary point, but I’m sure you’ll agree that just because someone in need is willing to do something for money, does not mean the government should be subsidizing their patron to do it.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to j r says:

        @glyph
        In Changi Airport, terminal 3, at least some of the gates have separate ramps for first class passengers (and platinum members). At universal studios Singapore, you can buy an all day express pass that allows you to bypass the queues by using a different ramp.

        If the government wants to have rich people living with poor people, then it should buy that land and hire someone who would build the apartment according to its specifications, then sell it at a cheap price to people.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to j r says:

        Or maybe it should, you know, just give poor people a huge chunk of money/housing vouchers that would allow them to live in a higher class neighbourhood.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to j r says:

        @murali

        I like that solution as well but as my brother points out frequently, America has a serious problem with direct welfare. We don’t seem to mind indirect welfare and among other things this has lead to the explosion of people receiving social security disability payments.

        The person who can discover why Americans dislike direct welfare and figure out how to solve the issue should win a prize.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        The section-8 housing program (which is either the model or the actual program that leads to the “poor door” loopholes) was established as we know it now by The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.

        The development in question is not accepting section-8 tenants and has nothing to do with that program. And it has nothing to do with anti-poverty programs. It’s about incentivizing developers to build something other than high-end residential.

        The “affordable” units in question will likely end up renting for somewhere from 25% to 50% of market rates, which for that location could be anywhere from $800 to $2000 a month and require an income somewhere north of $60k for a single person in a one-bedroom apartment.

        I say again, the whole “poor door” moniker is complete and total BS. These people are not poor and this is not about income segregation. This is about a developer building two distinct sets of units at different price points.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to j r says:

        The “affordable” units in question will likely end up renting for somewhere from 25% to 50% of market rates, which for that location could be anywhere from $800 to $2000 a month and require an income somewhere north of $60k for a single person in a one-bedroom apartment.

        I don’t see any information on which specific affordable housing program the developer is using. I’m curious where you’re finding this. Honestly, though, I don’t think it makes much of a difference when the biggest subsidizer of affordable housing – the federal government – has clearly stated that income mixing is a desired goal. Unsurprisingly, the Manhattan Housing Authority copies the federal language on deconcentration exactly.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

        The development in question is not accepting section-8 tenants

        He might as well go back to Toledo, then.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        I don’t see any information on which specific affordable housing program the developer is using. I’m curious where you’re finding this.

        I live in NY and am familiar with these programs. I actually got picked for a lottery once and was eligible to purchase a below-market rate condominium in a new building, but ended up leaving the city and had to forego the chance. Also, I presently live in a building that was developed under this program

        By the way, there is not such thing as the Manhattan Housing Authority, at least not that is relevant to this discussion.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        By the way @trizzlor, you are moving goal posts a bit. In the original comment that I responded to, here is what you said:

        Still, the goal of this policy seems to be promoting cross-class living, and the developers are accepting tax-breaks to support the policy. So loopholes should be discouraged as with anything else, or the policy should be scrapped. Don’t want the challenge of poor people living in your house, don’t take the tax-break (or, you know, vote with your feet).

        I asked you if you had any proof that the purpose of the policy is to get people of different incomes living in the same building as opposed to just getting more affordable units to market. Form there you quoted language about policies aimed at economically integrating neighborhoods, which is not the same thing as integrating buildings.

        I actually found the relevant language from the NYC program:

        The Inclusionary Housing Program (IHP) promotes economic integration in areas of the City undergoing substantial new residential development by offering an optional floor area bonus in exchange for the creation or preservation of affordable housing, on-site or off-site, principally for low-income households.

        Notice the “on-site or off-site.” The developers have done nothing that violates either the spirit or the letter of the program.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe says:

      Thanks for the link. That certainly clarifies things (at least where applicable).Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Kolohe says:

      @j-r : Yes, I was looking at Manhattan, Kansas : ) which I’ve now learned is called the “little apple” for some reason. My fault.

      Thanks for finding the specific language of the NYC Zoning policy, it clarifies things substantially. It seems like the bonuses you get with on-site versus off-site housing can be different. So what’s important to me is which of the bonuses the developers are aiming for. If they’re claiming “on-site” status but having separate entrances or even entirely separate buildings for the affordable housing – as I suspect they are – then I think this goes against the spirit of the law. If, instead, the developers are claiming “off-site” credits while only requiring that low-income apartments use a separate entrance, I think it’s actually a great public service the developer is doing by not segregating the low-income residents as much as they legally could.

      At the federal level, I’ll re-iterate the language that I interpret as promoting income-mixing within buildings: policy designed to provide for deconcentration of poverty and income-mixing by bringing higher income tenants into lower income projects and lower income tenants into higher income projects. The definition of “project” is at issue here. It’s certainly possible that this policy was set out to have low-income people live in one building of the project and high-income people to live in another building of the project, but I find that unlikely.Report

  15. Avatar Chris says:

    The two entrances is a pretty apt metaphor for the nature of our society. I say stick with the two doors. They’re not the disease, they’re a symptom. Getting rid of them does nothing to treat the disease itself.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

      I agree. In our society you have a multiplicity of firms providing a multiplicity of goods and services at a variety of price points. Some people want/can afford a high-end apartment with lots of amenities and high-cost finishes. Some people want/can afford a basic apartment at an economical price.

      I am not quite sure what makes this a “disease.”Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to Chris says:

      Can we at least call the one “First Class” and the other “Steerage”?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA says:

        You can call it what you want, but I am pretty sure that you have never actually seen one of these units and have no direct knowledge of the program in question. So whatever you call it, let’s just be clear that it is based completely on speculation.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to LWA says:

        The analogy between first class and coach is appropriate at least in part. There is a basic minimum. And more than that, you pay for what you get.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

        Well of course I haven’t seen them.

        They don’t let my kind in.

        But come the revolution…Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA says:

        The truer analogy, at least regarding the buildings in question, is much closer to first class and a few lucky people getting bumped from economy to business class.Report

  16. Avatar Jaybird says:

    You know, I’m pretty sure that we could get Cabrini-Green to work this time.Report

  17. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Are the subsidized residents being required to enter through a different door than the one they previously used? Or is a new door being added that only non-subsidized residents can use? I have much more of a problem with the former than the latter.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy says:

      Neither. The “poor door” is a myth that grew out of plans for a market-rate condo development to place its below market-rate rental units in a separate, but attached, unit with a different entrance. They are building two different buildings on the same site, instead of mixing the subsidized units in with the market-rate units in one big building.Report