JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA — Politicians in Jacksonville think a taxpayer-funded government redistribution program could help reduce homelessness.
Councilman Michael Boylan, a Republican, and Councilman Jimmy Peluso, a Democrat, are co-sponsoring a new bill that would pave the way for the City to install a 2 percent tax on the sale of food, beverages, or alcohol in hotels and a 1 percent tax on the sale of food, beverages, or alcohol at establishments licensed to sell alcohol.
The bill asks state lawmakers in Duval County to push for the legislature to approve the tax hikes. The tax money could then be used to create programs that would redistribute the taxpayer dollars to provide “assistance” for homeless people and victims of domestic violence.
Boylan told The Florida Standard in an email: “All that [the bill] does is to ask the Duval delegation to create the opportunity for the City to impose the tax should we, through due diligence, determine that such a tax would be necessary (as one of the options) to create an ongoing funding stream to address our growing homelessness issue.”
Last year, Boylan spearheaded the Council’s special committee on Critical Quality of Life Issues, which sought to address the issues of homelessness, “affordable housing,” and “access to healthcare.” He contends that the committee “clearly demonstrated” that “ignoring the problem” of homelessness is actually a more expensive option for taxpayers than a city-led program to “create long-term housing.”
The report projects the “cost to provide housing” at $13.6 million, while stating the City currently pays $25.9 million in costs related to homelessness. However, the report provides no breakdown of where and how that money has been spent.
Boylan did not respond when asked to provide a breakdown of current homelessness-related costs and whether “ignoring the problem” was the only reasonable alternative to creating a new government program. Peluso did not return a request for comment.
PUBLIC HOUSING AND NEW REGULATIONS
The Critical Quality of Life Issues report also declares that the apparently common view of homelessness as “Not My Problem” is actually a “misperception.”
Among the report’s recommendations, the committee suggested the City “develop, own, and operate (non-profit) publicly owned housing.” They added that the City should “provide capital for multifamily property developers to include a percentage of units as affordable housing below the fair market rate.”
The report also calls for an increase in housing regulations by establishing “an Office of Tenant Advocacy” and a “Tenants Bill of Rights.”
This is a common government solution that often backfires. A 2022 data analysis from City Journal found that “areas with more housing regulation have seen greater growth in the homeless population.” Conversely, the outlet concluded, “lowering regulatory barriers may address housing costs and potentially the size of the homeless population.”
New York City homeless advocacy titan George McDonald once told the Journal: “My experience with homeless people has brought me to the conclusion that they are more capable of helping themselves than I thought, and than the advocates still think.”
It appears the City Council’s report has already ruled out the “doing less” or “doing nothing” approach.
MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS
Boylan and Peluso are certainly not the first politicians to consider seizing more taxpayer dollars to help homeless people. The Robin Hood philosophy of taking from the rich(er) in order to give to the poor is endemic at virtually every level of government in America today.
However, the more the government spends on initiatives aimed at reducing homelessness, the more the problem seems to grow. For example, Los Angeles County spent over $1 billion last year on combating homelessness. The result? Over 75,000 homeless people, including 55,000 unsheltered. A decade ago, the county had fewer than 40,000 homeless people – sheltered and unsheltered combined.