From them who have little, much shall be taken

Here’s a new wrinkle in the battle to provide housing for poor people: the Wall Street Journal reports that Habitat for Humanity has accepted land donations from some people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  Habitat builds a house for those people and then offers a mortgage on it, discounted to reflect the value of the land donated.

There’s something disquieting about having people sacrifice their ownership of land to put a roof over their heads.  Having land ownership separated from building ownership is common in developing countries, a hangover from the days when all land belonged to a tiny elite.  Maybe the discomfiting thing about the Habitat arrangement stems not from anything the charity is doing, but from the fact that here’s one more way in which the social structure of the US grows less and less distinguishable from that in places we disdain as "the Third World." 



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