HOUSING KATRINA’S HOMELESS….Alex Tabarrok passes along a suggestion from Ed Olsen, a housing expert at the University of Virginia. Olsen notes that apartment vacancy rates in the south central region are quite high, which means that housing is already available for those who can pay for it. To that end, he has a proposal that would immediately help poor families forced from their homes in New Orleans:

Fortunately, no new federal program is required to match families suddenly needing housing with an existing stock of vacant apartments. The United States government already operates a program that would enable low-income families to pay the rent for these units. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program currently serves about two million families throughout the country. It enables participants to occupy privately owned units renting for up to, and somewhat above, the local median rent. Enormous numbers of vacant units could be occupied immediately by families with these housing vouchers.

….To avoid delays in getting assistance to these families, the vouchers should be allocated to housing agencies on a first-come-first-served basis and any low-income family whose previous address was in the most affected areas should be deemed eligible. We should not take the time to determine the condition of the family?s previous unit before granting a voucher.

This sounds like a terrific idea, and one that should be supportable on a bipartisan basis. Call your congressman.