Wilmington Housing Authority Gets Sued

There’s been pressure put on the Wilmington Housing Authority trying to get them to remove the gun ban language from their leases. It would seem that asking nicely didn’t work, so NRA is filing suit against them.

This sort of ties into the previous post about privilege vs. right. Obviously no one has a right to live in public housing either, really. But how much of a condition may the government impose? If it’s ruled that public housing bans are unconstitutional, it would give more ammunition to a case like the one in the previous post.

6 thoughts on “Wilmington Housing Authority Gets Sued”

  1. It seems that while there is no right to live in public housing, public benefits are becoming more and more important for a rapidly increasing number of people.

    These benefits always come with strings attached, though. Just like federal highway money is tied to things like speed limits, then I see Uncle Sugar imposing all sorts of caveats on benefits that go directly to individuals too. I chose to live in government provided housing (although not the same sort as discussed in this article) and it comes with firearms restrictions like mandatory registration and storage requirements. At least I had a choice though because we could have lived on the economy; for people who must accept public assistance or put their families on the street it is a much harder choice though.

    Hrm… Interesting that the percentage of income the average American gets from Uncle Sugar has dramatically increased, and how government control over vital services (like health care) has also dramatically increased… Wait for the strings to be attached!

  2. “Obviously no one has a right to live in public housing either, really.”

    Well, no, not a right, but a basic human need, especially if that someone is too young to provide it for themselves. I read this yesterday, when you posted it, and had a tiny WTF moment. I still do. I also have no idea what the correct answer is.

    If public housing had worked the way it was designed, that is as a temporary stepping stone on the path to one’s own place, then it would be really easy to hammer you for a callous attitude, but we both know that it’s turned into a multi-generational entitlement.

    Gotta think about this one some more.

  3. Callous attitude? I’d say Sebastian was leaning toward opposing the ban, although acknowledging that sometimes the .gov can put reasonable conditions on benefits. The firearms ban seems to be outside of a reasonable condition, since many public housing projects are nearly war zones.

  4. You can’t have a right to have someone provide something for you. You could argue that a just society doesn’t let people go without basic shelter, and I might even agree with that, but if you have a right to force someone to provide you with something, you have a right to make someone a slave.

  5. Peter,

    There may be a moral imperative to provide basic essentials (food, water, shelter, clothing) to members of society, and some states may have such requirements established as constitutional rights, but generally, such welfare programs are not to be legal or constitutional “rights.” Where they are established as rights (such as San Francisco — landlords have almost no power to evict tenants, even deadbeat ones) then it often leads to significant market distortions.

    And indeed, even these welfare benefits aren’t “rights” because they come with strings attached. Just as a Christian soup kitchen could ask someone to participate in saying grace (or at least politely tolerate it) even if the recipient isn’t Christian, the government entity providing “free” stuff can attach conditions or strings. For example, the government could decide that Food Stamps can’t be used on non-approved foods (too salty, perhaps?) or that if you are receiving a federal subsidy for your healthcare then you can’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess or whatever — the choice being that you can continue smoking but lose your subsidy. That is the long term danger in the shift we are seeing towards more and more Americans receiving direct government aid. Whereas private aid is usually dispersed through many providers, each of whom has different strings attached, government aid is provided by a centralized entity that forces recipients either out on the street or to live by the rules imposed. Sure, when the programs are first started, the strings may not be there… But just give it time.

    Things like vouchers usable for rent anywhere on the market instead of public housing might get around the above problem of strings attached, but frankly, I think part of the point of welfare is to impose restrictions on dependent (and desperate) people. The SCOTUS has ruled that while there is a right to free speech, there is no right to a government job — therefore federal employees have limitations on their speech. Likewise, while there is a right to free speech, there is no legal/constitutional right to public housing — so technically, people could choose to go out onto the street but practically I think many more will sacrifice some abstract civil liberties for immediate and badly needed aid. It is a Faustian bargain in the long run but I can’t necessarily blame them. It really is a clever way to get around the whole bill of rights thing.

    That is why this case is interesting from a legal perspective.

  6. Please remember that I was talking about providing shelter (however you wish to define that) for children, not adults. Freedom includes starving to death because one is unwilling to provide for oneself.

    Beyond that, thanks for the responses, they’ve helped me to think further about this.

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