Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What The News & Fishwrap Never Told You About Tiny Houses Greensboro: Part 2

Look, I know we all want to solve problems like homelessness. I've been homeless, I know the hopelessness, loneliness and despair. But in doing these things we must always ask ourselves, are we really helping or are we simply creating more of the same?

Yesterday I posted What The News & Fishwrap Never Told You About Tiny Houses Greensboro. After doing so I posted a link to my article at Greater Greensboro Politics and again Scott Jones, Director of t Tiny Houses Greensboro, replied but was no more forthcoming than he'd been before. He even resorted to name calling and became accusatory.

Now I'm not saying Scott has something to hide but as a rule, when people become belligerent over simply being asked questions it's because they have something to hide. So I decided to dig deeper.

Were you aware that Scott's Business, Re-Mulch Inc was previously named Alamance Nursery & Landscaping Supplies, Inc? It says so right on the bottom of the page at the BBB entry for Re-Mulch Inc. Seems Scott's business was also once named Carolina Landscaping Supplies Inc. This can be verified at the NC Secretary of State Corporations Division. Yes, as a matter of fact that was the link.

Scott also operated his business under the name Hardscapes Unlimited, Inc. You can verify that by clicking on that link.  Why so many names for the same business?

Seems Scott and his wife Robin have also been in the rental business as well, having operated Ivy Properties, LLC  from 2005 until 2010. Oh, and Scott seemed upset that I hadn't previously mentioned he'd been in the military, a volunteer firefighter and had cancer. Wonder why I had to find out everything else on my own?

But back to Tiny Houses Greensboro.

I began by checking the Corporations Divisions of the North Carolina Secretary of State to determine if, in fact, Tiny Houses Greensboro, is a registered 501 (c) 3 non profit. It is. But interestingly enough the articles of incorporation do not list a board of directors.

But Scott said in our first conversation that "The current Tiny Houses Greensboro Plan adopted by the 11 board member" so I popped over to the Tiny Houses Greensboro website to find out just who is on that board:

Scott Jones – Chair
Teri Hammer – 1st Vice Chair
Walter Jamison – 2nd Vice Chair
Kathryn Henry – Secretary
Barbara L Barker – Treasurer
Diane Boger
Zack Iillig
David Merritt
Renee Perry
Adil Inusah

I always feel better about non profits that make the names of their board members public. Score 1 for Tiny Houses Greensboro.

But I do have concerns about their business model.

For starters: is it legal to require prospective tenants to help build houses they will never own and will have to pay rent to live in? I mean, coercing volunteers is a lot like slave labor. Yes, I know Habitat for Humanity uses a similar model but with Habitat for Humanity the folks moving in get deeds to the property.

Also, it's not like the homeless have nothing to do. Most of them work every day they can find work just to survive. By making them work in order to be eligible to pay rent is forcing them to chose between getting a home and staying alive long enough to move in.

Pretty sucky choices, don't you think?

If you want people to have a sense of ownership then give them a route towards home ownership. Either give them the houses they help build or make it possible for them to buy the houses they help build. Using them to build your own rental business-- even a non profit rental business-- is just plain wrong.

Also, what's the difference between Tiny Houses Greensboro and say the Greensboro Housing Authority besides the size and appearance of the buildings they own? Both are non profits. Why didn't we just give more money to the Housing Authority rather than founding yet another non profit? Sure, Tiny Houses Greensboro is small now and perhaps it's all volunteer but for it to grow large enough to ever make a real difference it will have to hire lots of workers, administrative people and become yet another housing authority.

And you can bet THG will then have all the same problems as GHA. Creating more paperwork is not helping the homeless no matter how well intentioned your motives. And when Scott writes, "Every single thing you mentioned we have none for quite awhile!"
Well, I can't help but wonder if that's true.

I also have concerns as to what will ensure that t Tiny Houses Greensboro will be any better a landlord than say Greensboro's best know slumlords, Arco Reality, owned by the Agapion Family? Because THG is a non profit? Non profits can hire slick attorneys and weasel out of things just like for profits do.

Because they have good intentions? Yvonne Johnson had the best of intentions when she founded her non profit to keep young people out of prison but once you read the Yvonne and Walter Johnson Saga you discover good intentions simply aren't enough.

Is it because THG offers sliding scale rent based on income? Get real, people, every slumlord in Greensboro offers sliding scale. They couldn't stay in business without it. It's called Section 8 and almost anyone can get it. Slumlords love Section 8 because they get paid even if the tennant doesn't pay. Also there's long lists of agencies that will help with rental assistance.

But just like Tiny Houses Greensboro, none of those things are helping to solve the problems of homelessness and poverty. Think about it, Scott, where would you be if everything you earned went to paying rent on a house in which you never gained any equity? Where would your children be when there was nothing for you and your wife to pass down to them, small as it may be?

As good as it might make you and others feel, by building rental properties you are contributing to the long term problems of homelessness and poverty. Like I said in Part 1, the solution is to build that factory.

Then there's the zoning.Tiny Houses Greensboro has yet to get the zoning changes necessary to build what most people consider to be tiny houses. The houses they are working on now are 400 square feet. Smaller than most houses but over twice the size of what people think of when you say tiny houses.

I grew up with 3 brothers in a 900 square foot house, spent years living in a 600 square foot mobile home, several years living in a 224 square foot travel trailer, and my east Greensboro neighborhood already has numerous 400 square foot homes. No one here would consider 400 square feet to be a tiny house.

But hey, have at it, donate your money if you think this is the solution to homelessness in Greensboro. Jump on the latest fad just because Tiny Houses are cute and romantic. I mean, I wouldn't mind living in a tiny house myself but if I've got a choice I'm not going to pay rent on it.

Please continue reading
What The News & Fishwrap Never Told You About Tiny Houses Greensboro: Part 3