Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Nov 10, 2012

Businesses Can Save Neighborhoods From Section 8 Blight

by Rosemary Reeves

The reason commonly used methods to combat Section 8 blight and tenant bad behavior haven’t worked is that they are based solely on punitive measures such as reporting tenant violations to the housing authority and calling the police in response to loud music late at night.  However, the bad Section 8 tenant knows the housing authority often doesn’t enforce its own rules and the police only have so much authority.  They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing whatever they please, no matter if it disturbs everyone else around them and brings down the neighborhood.  They know their upset neighbors are at the mercy of an ineffective low-income housing agency that does not have the manpower to investigate every Section 8 complaint.  Using the punitive measures method has tilted the scales of power in the bad Section 8 tenant's favor, yet he has very little money, little education and possibly no job.  How can it be that he can hold hostage an entire urban or suburban neighborhood, with its rich commerce, valuable resources and financially successful majority population?  

Before I answer this question, let me ask you one.  Who do you believe has the power in this case?  Is it the Section 8 tenant?  Under the circumstances, it’s easy to believe that it is.  You forget that he is poor and was probably born into poverty.  Your advantages far outweigh his.  He has no inherited or earned power.  He cannot even take power from you if you hold steadfastly to it.  The only way he can acquire power is if you lay it at his feet like roses.  This is what most communities end up doing when they rely solely on punitive measures to combat Section 8 blight and bad tenant behavior.  It is much more effective to get troublesome Section 8 tenants to willingly change their own behavior than to try to force them to change.  How?  Through a reward system that taps into their motivation to do so.

A reward system shifts the balance of power back into the hands of the community because it is the community that creates and controls the system.  This is where neighborhood businesses come into play.

Local Supermarkets, Deli’s, Restaurants and Bakeries

One of the things low-income people need most is food.  Community groups in partnership with businesses can put a system in place whereby Section 8 tenants will be able to earn care packages of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods and meats supplied by local businesses in exchange for keeping their residence free of litter and grifitti as well as preserving the neighborhood peace and quiet.  For instance, the local supermarket might give a free bag of groceries to a Section 8 tenant who did not provoke any complaints from neighbors for at least a month.  It would be completely voluntary.  Section 8 tenants would not have to sign up if they don’t want to, but believe me, they will want to. 

Another free hand-out, you say?  No!  A hand-out is when you get something whether you cause problems in the neighborhood or not.  In the reward system, the Section 8 tenant must earn the care package or forfeit it for bad behavior.   The care packages won’t come out of the tax payer’s pocket, because local businesses will supply them as a charitable donation, for which the businesses can receive tax credit.

Neighborhood Drug Stores

Over-the-counter medicine such as pain reliever, antacid and decongestant is something low-income people desperately need and often cannot afford.  Diapers, feminine products, baby formula, etc. can be put in a care package from the local pharmacy as part of the Section 8 reward system created and controlled by the community.

Bus Tokens and Monthly Bus Passes

Most Section 8 tenants cannot manage without transportation and that means they need bus tokens and monthly bus passes or gas coupons for those lucky enough to have a car.   The community can provide this for them as a transportation care package on the condition that they earn it.

Local Dentists

If they know that good behavior will earn them a trip to the dentist, troublesome Section 8 tenants are much more likely to be less troublesome.  

 The next article in this series will explain the basics of setting up a community controlled reward system to combat Section 8 blight.  Please see the “I Hate Section 8” page on this website for previous articles in the series.

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