City Housing Rules Must Be Thought Out
Jefferson School Students, Norwalk, Connecticut
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"The road to hell," somebody once said, "is paved with good intentions."
People frequently come up with inane or outlandish solutions to problems they know little about, often with little thought about the consequences or efficacy of their suggestions.
One such suggestion -- that tenants be required to turn over their children's report cards to the housing authority -- found its way onto a long list of sweeping proposals by the Norwalk Housing Authority designed to establish stricter occupancy requirements for its more than 1,000 subsidized units in Norwalk.
The proposal, aimed at assisting poor performing students, was eventually rejected, but only after strong objections voiced by Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) and Connecticut Legal Services.
In all, these two agencies objected to a dozen proposals relating to occupancy; some were later rejected, others amended. It's expected that the revised proposals will be acted on by the authority after the tenants' representatives, as well as NEON and Legal Services, have their say.
I don't question anyone's motives in suggesting that parents be required to turn over their children's report cards to the housing authority, but I do question their judgment.
How could any housing commissioner -- or any member of its staff -- be so muddled as to think it to be within his purview to oversee the school performance of children who live in the city's housing projects? Do they have so little to do that they could come up with such a lame-brained scheme?
I'm told the commissioners were required to consider occupancy requirements because many changes were mandated by the U.S. Housing Act of 1988. Apparently, it was taken as an opportunity to come up with a few changes of their own -- not a bad idea provided the proposals are based on serving tenants not dominating them.
Education Advice by Landlords?
Parents in the housing projects undoubtedly would love to find ways to help their offspring do better in school -- so would parents everywhere else. But who goes to their landlord for such advice?
Obviously, the proper organization to help poor-performing students, if any, would be the Board of Education. Alternatively, perhaps, the housing authority would consider contributing cold, hard cash to organizations devoted to helping poor children?
Housing officials in Norwalk as well as in projects throughout the country have a difficult task and those who volunteer their time and talents to helping run the developments deserve everyone's gratitude. Overall, they do a hard job and they do it well.
Put Focus on Responsibilities
But, when facing the inevitable questions about how to handle tenants' problems, housing officials must remain focused on their particular responsibilities. Housing authorities are neither their tenants' parents nor their teachers; they're neither police nor employment agencies; neither welfare investigators nor caretakers of the elderly.
We hope the commissioners will keep this in mind when, eventually, they take their vote on implementing the final and, by then, well-thought-out and fair occupancy regulations.
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