Written by: Thomas Rogers
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said in his “Second Bill of Rights” that, “Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” Roosevelt pushed the idea that if some Americans are homeless, the government should provide housing. A government that failed in this obligation was not just heartless, but oppressive.
The claim is ironically true, but not in a way Roosevelt intended. When dictators move to take power, they do it by promising to fulfill the needs of the masses. The government has a duty to protect individual liberty, not provide for every necessity. We are meant to have the freedom to pursue our success, not take what we need from others.
Shelter is considered a basic human need, but should it also be a constitutional human right as Roosevelt proposed? The basic answer is no. The government should not provide housing for citizens who cannot afford it. Such assistance requires large tax increases and conflicts with other guaranteed freedoms.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are approximately 500,000 people living homeless in the United States at a given time. The average cost for a month of housing is $1,674, or $20,088 for the year. This would mean that it would cost over $10 billion a year for the government to house the homeless.
This, of course, ignores many socioeconomic factors that would change the group of people who would rely on this program, such as those who find it easier to take advantage of the free housing and reduce the amount they work. There are 34 million Americans who, while not homeless, are considered impoverished and would need this same support. Covering their housing would bring the total cost up to nearly $700 billion a year.
By the government guaranteeing the payment of living costs for such a huge group of people, business owners and speculators who sell housing would raise their prices substantially, knowing that the government will be forced to pay their high prices.
A right to housing would conflict with the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, as well. The Tenth Amendment states that the federal government cannot impose legal action that is not granted by the Constitution. And, as such, this would supersede our right to a limited government. Providing free housing ultimately oppresses taxpayers and deprives them of their Constitutional rights.