PCP: Somes Rights are Wrong

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

Rachel Tumin/Collegian

How can anyone stand modern Americans? We are a bunch of corporate jerks – makers of nothing – with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. You find this entitlement in more places than just where we keep the silver spoons and the adoption agencies for sterile-yuppie parents. Accomplishment and success are guarantees in the mind of the mass stupidity. The latest guarantee – hey, I’m stupid too – is the “Right of Housing.”

The recent Occupy Wall Street protests have sparked novel communist rants at our weekly Ed/Op meetings, and the suggestion that housing is some sort of fundamental right troubles me. This flavor of “right” is less of the “life and liberty” stuff and more of the right to health care or right to Internet kind. That is to say, housing is not a right guaranteed by law, but certain political minds believe it should be given freely, regardless of the costs. Therein lives the problem: health care, the Internet and housing cost money. These are things to be purchased.

 

The idea of “right to housing” confuses me; is equal access to housing the same? We must remember that there are a litany of acts that protect applicants and buyers – violations of which banks and regulators take quite seriously. These laws are epic page turners: Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Truth in Lending, Service Members’ Civil Relief Act, Homeowner’s Protection Act and more. I haven’t even listed all the federal agencies which regulate and ensure compliance with these laws. Yet I am confident that if one takes the time to understand the protections provided to them by federal law, they would be confident they have equal access to housing within their fiscal means.

However, part of this debate is the status of renters. Landlords are being foreclosed on, leaving banks with the obligation to evict the tenants in these properties. I’ve heard suggestions from my peers that banks should act as the landlord, allowing the tenants to remain in the property until a suitable buyer comes along. Although this idea would work in theory to stabilize failing communities, we must realize that financial institutions do not have the flexibility to act as landlord and also run their daily business. Banks operate on the principle of risk; they must yield a return that justifies the amount of risk they’re exposed to. Obligating banks to allow tenants to remain in their properties after foreclosure complicates the process of bank auctions; the bank auctions off the foreclosed property in hopes of securing the asset of the mortgage. This complication would only slow an already weak housing market. Moreover, banks do not have the manpower to ensure the quality of the property, nor the assets to protect themselves from third-party liability lawsuits.

Regardless of the debate around the decrease in available housing, I’ve been shown no good evidence that there is an intrinsic right to housing itself.

A right to housing may also be inherently dangerous. We should consider that part of the reason we fell into the housing crisis was the fact that banks were obligated to invest into communities any wise investor wouldn’t. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act (1977) obligated that banks end the practice of redlining and lend money to qualified applicants in low – and moderate – income neighborhoods. While the practice of redlining was incestually tied to many racist practices of the 20th century, simply ending the practice was equivalent to removing a tumor with a spoon; you only have part of the solution, and you’re doing a poor job at that. We should never force the hand of industry, only guide it. If we invested federal dollars into low-income communities to develop their economic potential, banks would have followed. Now, compile this new found – unguided –   “investment opportunity” with weak mortgage regulation at the turn of the millennium. Low-income communities now become prey to mortgage brokers, non-bank salesmen who do everything in their power to make a loan happen regardless of cost or sensibility. It was the customers of these brokers who lost their homes first in the housing crisis. I argue the very idea of housing as a right thusly endangers the potential for economic prosperity.

Now, my socialist friends should also consider that a right to housing, particularly public housing, leads to social order. In fact, by pacifying your poor and working class, through public housing, welfare and social security, you rob them of their will to desire social change. We don’t get our socialist revolution; everyone is simply fat, dumb and happy.

Unless you believe in utter socialism, no stable and sustainable economy can thrive and prosper when legislation begins to dissolve the free market. Now, I’m not against altruism. America is in the midst of a recession and people are indeed struggling to make ends meet. Therefore we must craft incentives that develop the poor and working-class and raise them into higher standards of living. We must struggle for equitable tax laws and sensible domestic spending with the goal to embolden us all. Yet redistributing the property – physical, intellectual  or otherwise – of one and giving it to another should never be marked as a right. The stones of our forefathers, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, promise grand things. They promise rights of freedom, equality and the opportunity to be the best we desire to be. These things aren’t for sale.

Christopher Dunay is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]