Commentary on Habitat
I knew an investigatve reporter -- Patty Lamb was her name -- who had a motto" "Sacred Cows make the best tasting hamburger." So it's not surprising so see a "sainted" organization come under a well-intentioned and even tempered scrutiny here.
Back when federally subsidized housing was just getting off the ground, I imagine its critics -- for aesthetic and economic reasons -- were criticized for picking on poor people, and for speaking ill of the well-intentioned people involved to set it all up.
If only those critics were taken seriously at the time. We might not have Taft and Harrison, or the Section 8 program, which serve only to raise the prices for tenents who work (*ahem*)
The same could be said for Habitat for Humanity. Now, I much prefer the idea of making people owners of their own homes, as opposed to more government, Section 8 apartments.
You are right: If H for H is going to donate labor to build homes, they ought to hold themselves to neighborhood-positive standards. If a new homebuyer built new homes that ugly, they would be criticized, too. My libertarian principles prevent me wanting the government to prevent peopel from building a home just ebcause it's ugly. Beauty is in the eye of the yada yada, after all.
Personal tastes, aside: So why don't they just rehab older homes if it costs less and takes less time?
Why should they? What's in it for them? The emotional payoff for the volunteers is much greater when they hand over the keys to a NEW home.
No one does anything for free. H forH volunteers are doing it to feel good about themselves, which might be a noble enough reason. But how many more could they help by switching to less grandious ways of helping people.