Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

You Might Live in Public Housing, Even If You Don't Know It

Ananya Roy is professor of City and Regional Planning and distinguished chair in Global Poverty and Practice at the University of California, Berkeley. And she lives in public housing.

In the video "Who is Dependent on Welfare?" Roy explains that her work affords her a comfortable home in the California hills, with a view of Golden Gate Bridge—but she still calls it public housing. 

"The public housing I live in is not the American stereotype...but my home is public housing, because the tax deduction I enjoy on my mortgage is a more substantial handout than any money spent by the U.S. government," she says.

Roy has heard her students speak against government help for the poor and talk of so-called welfare "dependency," so she challenges them to examine the subsidies that they themselves—and many middle-class and wealthy citizens of this country—receive.

"In 1999, the U.S. government spent $24 billion on public housing and rental subsidies for the poor," Roy says in the video. "That same year, it spent $72 billion on homeownership subsidies for the middle class and the wealthy--subsidies that are never considered to be welfare, and there is no stigma attached to this dependency. In fact, it is seen as an entitlement."

"My students enjoy a host of hidden government subsidies that buttress opportunity and mobility, but they do not think that such subsidies should be available to the poor," she says.

It's just one of the compelling points in this video from the #GlobalPOV project at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at U.C. Berkeley. The goal of the project is to prompt people to examine their thinking about poverty, both in the United States and around the world.

The video also details how the global south is leading the world in addressing income equality and rewriting the social contract that governments have with those living below the poverty line by doing things such as legislating a livable minimum wage. It also digs into the myth of the "welfare queen," and shows how large corporations that pay their workers sub-standard wages are more dependent on federal aid than poor individuals could ever be. For those who don't quite buy the analysis of the video, the producers offer a list of their source materials, and encourage viewers to do their own learning and digging on the topics they present. And to learn more about how wages are essential to combatting poverty, read the 2014 Hunger Report, “Ending Hunger in America.”

 

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