The Problem Isn’t That NYC Luxury Buildings Have a “Poor Door”

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Gawker and the New York Post are pissed that a new luxury high rise has a separate door for its low income tenants than the tenants paying market price, calling it a so called “poor door.” As Gawker puts it:

In these economically fraught times, it’s easy to forget that the super rich earned their right to never see you, hear you, smell you, or consider your pitiful existence. Expecting them to share an entrance would be unfair.

While critics are right that it is odd to have a different door than your neighbor based on income, they’re ignoring the fact that it’s by far weirder that we’re forcing the rich to pay for a few specific poor people’s apartments. Don’t get me wrong, the government should strive to provide affordable housing to the disadvantaged. But the housing shouldn’t be in brand new buildings on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

If we are going to try to squeeze money out of housing developers (who agree to such penalties in exchange for permission to build higher buildings), we should find a more equitable way to do it rather than letting a few people win the Manhattan housing lottery. We need to understand that it is okay that the poor can’t afford t live in Manhattan. Most people can’t. That’s why there are people living in dog cages for $10 a night:

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NYC “Hotel”

Even those who can afford Manhattan have to put up with shitty conditions. My first apartment was probably too small for one person, yet there were three of us in it. We needed a sherpa to get up the five flights of stairs. Unless I was blasting Third Eye Blind in my headphones, I could hear each of my other roommates having sex, or alternatively crying themselves to sleep because they couldn’t get sex. Our bathroom had so many mushrooms a community of Smurfs could have colonized it.

So the problem is not that the poor cannot afford apartments in Manhattan, its that no one can afford an apartment in Manhattan. A true one bedroom goes for at least $2,500 per month and probably $3,500 per month in a new building. Why are we subsidizing 50 poor people to live on the Upper West side when we could just tax the buildings for the same amount and use it to build public housing for ten times as many tenants in a cheaper neighborhood?

In part, we don’t do this because it hasn’t worked in the past. Public housing projects are often crime riddled disasters. But it is important to note that the projects are not shitty places to live because they were poorly constructed or have bad wi-fi connections. The projects are shitty places to live because they are filled with poor people. Not all poor people make for bad neighbors, but there is a reason they don’t film the show Cops in Bel-Air. Even if you subscribe to the far-fetched idea that the rich commit just as many white collar crimes as the poor, the rich at least have the decency of committing their felonies in the privacy of their homes while wearing a tasteful smoking jacket. That’s a far better neighbor than the shirtless guy shooting bottle rockets at his wife because she forgot to walk the pit bull again.

So what is the goal of these government programs? Are we taxing the people who live in high priced buildings in order to provide shelter to those less fortunate? Or are we also trying to teach life lessons by forcing the poor and rich to live together, in the hopes that the poor will stop treating their free housing like a Lindsay Lohan hotel room? This social babysitting seems like an absurd social engineering scheme for the government to thrust upon itself, but that seems to be one of the hopes here.

But the goal shouldn’t be to conduct a sociology experiment, it should be to provide an affordable place to live for as many low income people as possible. If we really wanted to tax the wealthy and provide low income housing, we wouldn’t subsidize a select number of lucky people to live in a brand new apartment in one of the priciest zip codes in the United States.

The problem isn’t that there is a “poor door,” the problem is that the number of poor going through the poor door is nominal for the amount of resources being taken.

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