Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More On Affordable

One reason we are so very expensive is because we have stricter "anti-sprawl" rules than even Portland, Oregon. Our problem is that to relax the rules would flood the place until it looked like the San Fernando Valley or Orange County. In FAct 40 years ago Orange and Ventura Counties were nearly identical yet today Orange has 4 times the population, higher prices, and a clearly worse quality of life so i don't feel bad about our chosen path. I do feel bad for those that cannot afford to live here but I also own waaaay out in San Bernardino rental property that I lease at reasonable rates. The issue is building where there is already buildings. RPPI says in #320;
"The real problem is government restrictions on supply. Supply has not kept up with demand due to these artificial restrictions. One recent study found that 90 percent of the difference between physical construction costs and the market price of new homes can be attributed to land use regulation.
The solution is to allow more construction."
There already exists a market mechanism to address affordable housing. When housing becomes unaffordable, prices fall and time on market increases. What RPPI proposes -instead- is that government not only get out of the business of manipulating the market but that government also get out of their actions regulating for an orderly market abandoning supply and demand in exchange for demand only markets. This, in my opinion, ignores the reality that zoning and land use regulation needs to exist for the protection of -existing- land uses and land owners. Turning this on its' head to become a tool of potential owners or uses is antithetical to the usual positions of RPPI.
Housing is more affordable than ever since ownership is at all time highs and demand is the highest in two generations. Were housing unaffordable prices would be falling and vacancies high and ownership low.
There is a unique and transitory demographic effect that distorts the picture. Robert explains it all and then some: People living longer means taking longer to roll over -used- housing. I say -used- not -older- because the two are recently divorced. Trust me, there are 20 houses in Massachusetts, stretching from Pittsfield to P-town owned by friends and mostly family that have an average owners' age of 65 plus. In the past these would be on their way to the first time buyer market. Sorry, mom still plans on "commuting" twice a year between golf and tomatoes in Longmeadow, MA Memorial Day to Labor Day and golf with sailing the rest of the year in Venice, FL. Aunt Debby is tri-locating, Framingham, Maine, FL. Uncle Jimmy, Framingham, Newport, RI, extensive travel. Aunt Kathy, Worcester, Waterville Valley (NH), Falmouth, whim (I think). Uncle Dick, West Springfield and Venice FL.
Affordable housing initiatives have only one outcome; less, more expensive housing.
Planners will NEVER understand that people don't want to live and work in the same place.
"The quest for a strong regional authority has been the Holy Grail for planners." Says it all.
" As traffic gets worse, I would venture to say that closer in locations get better [more attractive]." Crap.
"The mortgage deduction certainly discourages renting." More crap.
Sometimes it seems to me that people don't want to understand these issues.
The American Dream is a constantly evolving ideal that in practice nearly always requires compromise. The premise of PTAD is that there be no structural impediments to those goals. A pure "free market" does not and should not exist in the public realm of community land use delineation.
"Affordable Housing" has become the bogeyman of the NUTSo and SmUGLers (New Urbanist/Transit Supporters, Smart Urban Growth Lovers) because sprawl has been effectively negated as a threatening term. Sprawl has been defanged in no small part by several members of this list.
"Affordable Housing" is going to be especially difficult to unmask as nothing more than the latest anti-suburban, high density, Pyonyang Transit scheme. There's a subtle tinge of racism that makes it the third rail of planning. Housing is seen as more of a right than transportation. "Affordable" is not as easily ridiculed as "Smart Growth" for instance. The secret worldwide urban cabal is also getting more sophisticated in their presentations. Every time we beat them back with logic and facts and democracy they try another tactic. They only need to slip one measure past us. Eternal vigilance is the burden of freedom.
There is a NUTSo -theory- that affordable housing reduces the need for poorer people to commute long distances to their jobs. Bull. If that's all that was necessary then mixed income housing would be able to have narrower streets and less parking and less transit service, etc. Lowering the price only causes people to buy as much as they can afford fueling the rise in larger homes. You will notice also that mixed income is never mentioned by the NUTSos. This is because Neo Trad/New Urb is very expensive and even at very expensive the municipal costs are not covered by the higher taxable basis. "Affordable Housing" for the SmUGler crowd means subsidized housing. Urban Planners want to do for housing what they did to transit. Transit was profitable and private until the affordable transit crowd tried to impose unrealistic pricing schemes borne on the back of the private industry and public purse. See the similarity? That's a real way to scare the crowd.
People deserve -a- place to live BUT people do not have a right to live -any- place.
We do this a lot. We select based on economics, safety, concern for the environment, and undue burden on other people. We are an empty nation and most of the nation is emptying out even more. The problem we face is that we cannot (yes, cannot) accommodate everyone who want to live in places like SoCal because the people who want to move here will not (yes, will not) pay their share of the costs of their accommodation. There is no affordable housing crisis for instance, there is a surplus of people who are unwilling to pay for the housing they think they deserve. There are similar parallels in transit and roads funding. I think we need to increase gas excise taxes to prepare for the upcomming round of urban highways that we've already filled up with demand before adding capacity.
Some on this list can tell stories about what I think of planning as a "profession." Planners are not familiar with the scientific process or if they are they reject it as too inconvienient. The word science is tacked on to lots of things like boxing and planning. In Boxing, where the word is appropriate, one can set up a hypothesis and perform experiments and enumerably compare results with known constants and variables and margins of error. Planning cannot do any of these things in a putatively free society so they revert to chicken guts and portents as interpreted by shamans. They have shown themselves to be resistant to introducing science into the processes so important to us all.
Real science starts with hypotheses and collects data and produces conclusions. Planning is the Church, professionalism is Gallileo.
Planning is to science what astrology is to astronomy.
Limiting housing can be neither onerous nor coercive. Zoning density restrictions enjoy a long acceptance in this country. Economic hurdles to more residences in a neighborhood than the existing owners are willing to accept are even more respected for both their legitimacy and efficacy.
We are not talking about buying an empty lot in a residential area and building a house. We are talking about public funds buying an empty lot in a residential area and allowing a zoning change and building an apartment building.
We are not talking about buying an empty lot in a residential area and building a house. We are talking about buying an empty lot in a residential area and being allowed a zoning change and building a an affordable house with public subsidies.
I fail to see why residence location should be any different from any other "investment." I use "investment" in quotes to highlight that this means far more than money. When one buys into any system there is a reasonable expectation that the rules that restrict will also protect. In the last 40 years that has changed so that now they only restrict.
I've mentioned before that my neighborhood is massively protected by money and many layers of interlocking laws. The population is most certainly limited and affordable housing is not going to happen here. The difference is that those constraints are neither onerous nor coercive nor arbitrary.
This is a case of swamping the lifeboat. What in the heck is wrong with saying "use the next boat." The answer is obvious and odious. "We don't want that -same- as what you've got, we want what you have. If we cannot have it at the price -we- like then -we- will drag you down." Of course I'm talking about Sec 8 and affordable housing and "fair share", upzoning, etc.
The largest threats to the US historically high homeownership rates are in the following order:
Government intervention. Bias towards urban solutions. Using housing to address social justice or social equity issues. The false assumption that sprawl is an anti-affordable factor.
Govt intervention, with all good intentions doesn't permit affordable and profitable housing anymore than it permits adequate but unencumbered roads or transit sited for apolitical technical reasons. We don't let safe, decent shelters be built. We insist on massive public dedications of land, very high construction standards, etc. There may be good reasons for these things, strict fire codes for instance, make a home cost more but saves the municipality fire dept expenses. Same thing when the front yard is "taken" for wide tertiary streets, greenstrips, sidewalk and now the new taking, underground utility rows that don't lay in the "public" row.
Affordable housing is easy. Lay down some streets and stand back. But like I said affordable housing is only the wedge issue urban agendaists are using to force social changes to their liking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Robert here's a post thanks for the effort...nice cover of the U2 song...keep going with the blog but maybe expand your topic a little bit.