Friday, September 28, 2007

Affordable Housing (not)

According to Blake Aued’s coverage of the “affordable housing” conference held recently at UGA:

“Because homeowners are better organized and more vocal than renters or prospective residents, they disproportionately influence elected officials, said Russell James, a UGA professor of housing and consumer economics.

The result is policies meant to encourage expensive housing by mandating minimum lot or house sizes, requiring amenities like brick facades and granite countertops, and discouraging multifamily developments and manufactured houses, James said. Those policies can add 10 percent to the price of a house, he said.

The main benefit is it prevents poor people from entering your community, he said. It has the added benefit of forcing existing poor people to leave your community."

You don't say. Isn’t this precisely the point that I have been making for years (see under the heading Affordable Housing). Our local ordinances and land use policies serve to actively discourage the construction of affordable housing – and then we complain about the conspicuous lack thereof.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the solutions posited locally are exactly the wrong ones. Again quoting from Blake’s story:

“Instead, [Athens Mayor] Davison said she hopes to use HUD grants to start an affordable housing trust fund administered by a nonprofit foundation. That idea is more in line with some of the other housing officials and academics at the one-day conference, who advocated land trusts, mixed-use development and requiring developers to set aside affordable units.”

So instead of modifying the ordinances to remove the inhibitions that currently mitigate against lower- and middle- income folks living here (such as the virtual exclusion of manufactured housing from the county, the limit of one house per ten acres in the AR zones, the definition of family ordinance, the repeated removal of projected sewer lines from the Service Delivery Plan, etc.), we will get more of what the Unified Government specializes in: more bureaucratic hoops through which to jump, more special interest activists dictated policy, and more government mandates. You know, the kinds of things that created the lack of affordable housing in the first place.

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66 said...

I was there. Mayor Davison must not have been listening.

Another barrier I'd like to see removed is the ban on "garage apartments".

Only glanced at Blake's take on the conference, but one thing worth mentioning was how many times people were concerned with "those people" when discussing affordable housing (as in, "I don't want 'those people' living in my neighborhood"). One of the panelists read off a list of complaints when residents of a subdivision showed up to protest a new development - crime, declining property values, etc. etc. - and those were actually the complaints others made when the first subdivision was developed years earlier.

Pot, kettle, black.

Anonymous said...

Spot on. The lack of affordable housing is by design. And the proposed solutions they are willing to entertain are silly theoretical constructs. Get government out of the way and the market will respond very quickly with affordable housing.

amo said...

Isn't it odd how sometimes we can all agree on a problem but differ wildly in terms of the solution?

I personally can't see how more government *ever* helps.