Verde Point is a self-described "luxury apartment" complex with a rooftop pool and "personal wine storage" that is currently accepting public housing assistance recipients who will live there practically for free, courtesy of the taxpayers — at least until they become gainfully employed and their incomes rise. That's when the pool parties and wine tastings end and they will have to downgrade to a more middle-class abode.

The Gramercy is another luxury apartment, also in Arlington, Va., where holders of the federal vouchers formerly known as Section 8 can live, taking advantage of its "massage room and sauna" and "clubroom with bar." Also included, according to its promotional materials, are a "first-class sports club," "theater/screening room," and computer room.

"Someone will actually come and do a manicure right in your home," its promotional video says, adding that the units have "Berber carpet, GE stainless steel appliances, granite countertops." There are 20 residences at the Gramercy set aside as "affordable," and where Section 8 can be used.

The Gramercy

As with those at Verde Point, federally-subsidized Gramercy residents can face the unpleasant choice between living in luxury on public assistance or getting a job and having to move to a neighborhood with far fewer amenities.

Washington and local governments also pay for subsidized housing in luxury units by giving tax breaks to often-wealthy real estate developers who set aside units. Critics say such tax breaks impact the budget just the same as direct payments, but can make it more difficult for legislators and members of the public to know the full extent of the subsidies.

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