The View From 1776

The Counterproductive Welfare State

A new book gives LA-area specifics about the phenomenon frequently cited by economist Thomas Sowell, who notes the politically-correct policies in San Francisco and surrounding communities that back-fire, driving rents and home prices into the stratosphere.  Low income people are forced into slums or completely out of town, preserving the area as a feel-good enclave for wealthy liberal-progressives.

Wayne Lusvardi emailed the following article which can be found at and also at
Thomas E. Brewton
Evangelical Left All Shook Up About Affordable Housing?in Pasadena
Book Review:

Making Housing Happen: Faith-Based Affordable Housing Models
By Jill Suzanne Shook, editor and co-author
Chalice Press, 2006 $34.99

Through her new book, Jill Shook, a housing activist in Pasadena, California, has become the de facto spokesperson of the Evangelical Left’s new social movement to combat the so-called “affordable housing crisis”, mostly focused on the U.S situation.? The book jacket contains endorsements by many leaders of the Evangelical Left - Tony Campolo, Ronald J. Sider, and oddly has a preface by Dr. John Perkins, who doesn’t fit the label.? Given that the November 2006 elections have energized the political Left, Shook, who fashions herself as the next Jane Addams, may very well be used as one of the centerpieces of the Democratic Party’s missionary ventures to evangelical Christianity. As such her Biblically-populist book is important?but problematic?both on empirical and theological grounds.

In Shook’s hometown of Pasadena the reality of housing affordability is the reverse of what Shook portrays. One-third of the population by the U.S. Census is low income, mostly migrants from Mexico (God bless them). If there truly was an “affordable housing crisis” for the poor, how could one third of the populous afford housing in such an upscale suburban community?? By doubling-up in housing and gobbling up the lowest rung on the housing affordability ladder, migrants have driven up rents and have driven the working class out of affordable housing.

Contra Shook’s notion that scattered gentrification drives the poor out of affordable housing, California court decisions such as Serrano vs. Priest (1971) and urban riots partly organized by those on the political Left have made migrants into a protected class in neighborhoods in the first concentric ring surrounding Los Angeles. Moreover, Shook has no comprehension that her advocacy of inclusionary housing, “smart-growth,” rent control, landlord divestment of properties to the poor, and her opposition to gentrification actually will worsen the affordable housing crisis rather than lessen it.?

Theologically problematic is Shook’s disguising of the neo-Marxist advocacy model of Saul Alinsky and the Industrial Areas Foundation as what she calls the Biblical “Nehemiah Strategy” (Chap.15). The theological underpinning for her cafeteria of affordable housing models is mostly based on the Old Testament concept of “justice,” by which she means wealth redistribution by coercive government.? Shook and her co-authors fail to tell readers that nearly all of the “faith-based” affordable housing case studies in her book relied on government funding and tax credits. ?

Shook is oblivious to Jesus’ observation that “man does not live by bread (or housing) alone.” As such she doesn’t recognize that religiosity (i.e., Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic) can be conducive to housing affordability in a capitalist society.? Her advocacy of compulsory “inclusionary housing,” which diminishes the value of land of small property owners (not real estate developers) without “just” compensation?runs against the commandment “thou shall not steal.”? Even Shook’s Biblical preference for?homeless immigrants?runs against the moral of the scriptural story of King David taking a sheep from a rich man to give to a traveler in II Samuel 12.

A responsible Christian approach to such a complex issue as housing affordability in a modern society should entail the necessity of economic and sociological competency but also an understanding that our best efforts may lead to unintended consequences for which one needs to rely on humility, grace and repentance.? How so many affordable housing advocates from such institutions as Fuller, Denver and Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminaries, Chalice Press, and many para-church organizations could unquestioningly contribute to and endorse this Marxist-based model?of housing?is indicative of how the Evangelical Left have already successfully infiltrated and co-opted formerly conservative Protestant institutions. Whether?Shook’s affordable housing social movement, which may be funded by the new Democratic Party-controlled Congress,?may?meet opposition from The Minutemen and the property rights movements remains to be seen. ?

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