Playing Marketnby Jeffrey A. Tuckern’HOPE’ and Housing andnUrban DevelopmentnJack Kemp arrived in February 1989nat the dark halls of the Departmentnor Housing and Urban Developmentn(HUD). During the Energy Crisis, thenlights had been dimmed to save electricity,nbut as secretary, Kemp orderednthem turned up. With that action, henbegan a two-year spending spree whichnhas transformed its colossal concretenheadquarters in L’Enfant Plaza, Washington,nD.C., from a hated leftist agencynto a beloved center for neoconservativensocial activism.nIt’s hard to remember, but HUD wasnon the ropes three years ago. Every daynbrought new media revelations aboutnwidespread corruption under the disgracednregime of secretary Samuel R.nPierce. The Washington Post had itsncrack reporters sniffing out every detail.nThe agency seemed irreformable, andncalls for its abolition were growing. Atnthe very least, devastating budget cutsnwere imminent.nVITAL SIGNSnBut who remembers the “RobinnHUD” incident today? (That was thenmedia name for the employee whonstole $6 million, supposedly to give itnto the poor.) Even though a recentninternal audit by Price Waterhouse,nwhich Kemp won’t release to the public,nshowed that corruption is just asnrampant, Kemp has changed thenagency’s public image. Thanks to hisnefforts, its budget has been growing 15npercent per year, completely reversingnthe minor cuts of the Reagan years.nBut that’s not enough; Kemp nownwants a 32 percent increase for nextnyear. Early in his tenure, Kemp wasnasked by this writer why U.S. taxpayersnshould entrust their money to thenagency after its long history of waste,nfraud, and abuse. “Because I’m inncharge now,” he said.nIn September 1989, in a piece ofnforgotten history, two Kemp aides,nKen Blackwell and C. Austin Fitts,nsent Kemp a memo urging him to holdna massive fire sale of housing underngovernment control, with thousandsnforeclosed-upon properties included.nPrices would be set at their market levelnand made available for sale to whoevernwould buy. Prices would fall every daynby one percent until each one was sold.nThe government would be donenwith it.nNice idea. At least it might havencompensated for the tax dollars used tonsave the eyesight of HUD bureaucrats.nBut Kemp didn’t take up the idea, andnit went nowhere. An even better ideanwould have been to sell all publicnhousing to the highest bidder, and letnthe new owner charge market rent. Itnwould have encouraged some degreenof responsibility.nBut today, Kemp’s eyes are focusednon another program: Housing Opportunitynfor People Everywheren(HOPE), enshrined in the 346-pagenhousing bill signed by Bush in Novembern1990. HOPE is the name for a bignpile of money (about $2.1 billion, ifnnnKemp gets his way) earmarked to facilitatenthe conversion of HUD-fundednhousing blocs into resident-managedn(or partially owned) properties.nKemp’s promise not to squandernmoney might have been plausible beforenApril 1991. That’s when thenagency’s bete noire, the INational Journal,nrevealed the truth behind a belovednshowcase for tenant managementnand housing ownership, Washington’snKenilworth-Parkside housing projectnand its administrator Kimi Grey, thenwelfare queen whom the Bush administrationnhas tried to make into a nationalnhero. Once a haven for drugndealers, violent criminals, and hopelessncases, it was supposed to have beennconverted into a vibrant community ofnapartment owners who have beenn”bootstrapped” onto the fast track ofnmainstream life. So the story goes,nthough it still looks like a housingnproject, albeit with trimmed hedgesnand lower than expected crime rates.nIt turns out, according to the Journal,nthat Kenilworth-Parkside is thenmost expensive public housing projectnin American history. Add up all thencosts of renovations, subsidies, relocationnfunds, etc., and federal and localngovernments will spend $130,000 pernapartment at Kenilworth-Parkside toncomplete Kemp’s plans. That’s thenprice of an upscale townhouse in suburbannAlexandria, Virginia. Renovationnat the project took the pace of,nwell, a government project: the firstngrant was awarded in 1982, and thenrenovation and “sales” are far fromnfinished.nThe National Journal article shouldnhave done an enormous amount ofndamage, and made Kemp and hisnprogram the subject of wide ridicule.nPeople joked about the revelation atnprivate Washington parties. But thennews that Kemp’s program costn$130,000 per apartment didn’t travelnoutside the Beltway.nHUD does its best to cover up suchnFEBRUARY 1992/39n