If they simply put poor people in mobile homes, they would be re-creating the same troubled neighborhoods that were destroyed," said Susan J. Popkin, a housing expert at the Urban Institute. "And we know how to do this better."Marginal Revolution posted Olsen's appeal here.
Bruce Katz, a liberal housing policy expert at the Brookings Institution, rushed to draft an opinion article, urging the administration to learn from the experience of the 1994 Northridge, Calif., earthquake. Within a week of the quake, the first of 22,000 low-income displaced families were moving into new apartments with expanded HUD housing vouchers. Within a month, a major landlord-recruitment effort was pushing low-income Angelenos into higher-income neighborhoods.
"It's not rocket science," said Katz, a HUD chief of staff in the Clinton administration. "If you turned on the voucher faucet, you'd have people in apartments in a week."
Edgar O. Olsen, a conservative housing economist at the University of Virginia, said he pestered the Federal Housing Administration and HUD with faxes, imploring them to scrap the mobile home contracts for rental vouchers.
After all, he noted, rental occupancy rates are at historic lows, as are rents. There are more than 1.1 million available units in the South, with an average rent of less than $700 a month. Houston's vacancy rate stands at 15.6 percent. But Olsen said he has received no response.
UPDATE. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution hammers the point home in his post "Rotting in FEMA City."