Tag Archives: affordable housing

“Affordable” Phonies Make Life Unaffordable for the Serfs

According to Merriam Webster online, affordable means able to be afforded: having a cost that is not too high.  And among New York’s Democrats and progressives there is always talk of having government policies make something affordable:  affordable education, affordable health care, affordable housing, affordable transportation, etc.  And yet observing 40 years of public policy in New York, I can think of only a handful of examples of policies that have actually made life, or a better life, less costly for the public at large.

When one examines the totality of public policies enacted in so-called Blue States, you see that the goal actually seems to be to make many things more expensive.  

Sometimes for reasons I agree with.  A developed country (and I’m not sure ours is) shouldn’t be making goods and services more affordable in the short run by making them more expensive, more dangerous, or more misery-inducing for the community as a whole, in the long run.  That’s what the builders of the “affordable” Surfside condo in Florida did by cheaping out on the building structure.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-the-florida-condo-collapse-rampant-corner-cutting-11629816205?mod=trending_now_news_1

But mostly for reasons that would be impossible to justify if openly admitted.  To make some workers — those who work for the government, or are paid funded by government programs — richer compared other similar workers, at the expense of making those other similar workers pay more and become poorer.  And to make it more expensive to live in politically influential “liberal” communities, ensuring the less well off, their burdens and troubles, will be somewhere else.  The result is hypocrisy.

When Democrats and progressives say “affordable” what they really mean is “subsidized.”  Part of the cost is paid for by someone else, so it seems to be more affordable.  But since fiscal resources are not unlimited, even in New York City where we have the highest state and local tax burden and the most debt, the subsidies for “affordable” health care, education, transportation, housing etc. only end up going to the fortune few.  And many if not most of those few often turn out to be among those were already fortunate.  For the rest, somebody has to pay after all.  Often those who are already burdened by policies to make things more expensive – policies that lead to the need for subsidies to begin with.

Continue reading

Flexibility and The Missing Middle

One of the ideas moving around city planning circles recently is the “missing middle,” a term coined by Daniel Parolek, an architect and urban planner in Berkeley, a few years ago.

http://missingmiddlehousing.com

For the past 70 years, it seems, zoning regulations, federal financing, institutional capital, and large real estate companies have combined to build either increasingly large detached single-family houses, or large apartment properties in tower or garden apartment configurations.  Whereas in pre-automobile cities and small towns housing types in between – rowhouses, two-, three- and four-family houses, and small apartment buildings with local small time owners, were more common.   The one-family rowhouses of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, the Brooklyn brownstones, and the New England triple deckers, large, detached, three-story houses with one unit per floor, are examples.

https://www.globest.com/2018/2018/10/15/missing-middle-housing-needs-to-take-into-account-changing-household-demographics/

“It’s a range of housing types that are house-scale, that is very compatible with a house, but they happen to have multiple units inside of it,” Parolek says.  “Over the course of the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic shift in household demographics and every time we present these it shocks me a little bit.”  Detached, single family houses match the needs of married couples with children, but such households are now a small share of the total, whereas single family homes a majority of the housing stock.

Living in Brooklyn, I was not aware that the middle had gone missing, but thinking about it there is another aspect of pre-automobile development that was important.   Both the buildings and regulations (or lack of enforcement) allowed the way they were used to change over time.

Continue reading

Poverty Anywhere Leads To Poverty In New York City

The 1970s were a devastating decade for New York City. The middle class and employers fled, leaving the old, poor, unemployed and troubled behind. The city lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and nearly a million people. Today, however, the population has soared. Cranes dot the skyline as tens of thousands of housing units are under construction to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people trying to more here. Total private employment, for which the 1969 peak was a seemingly insurmountable barrier for decades, has soared past that level to previously unimaginable heights. Self-employment has soared even more. And with suburban housing increasingly occupied by retired empty nesters rather than young workers, more of those jobs are held by city residents, and the city’s employment-population ratio is at an all time high. The only problem, it seems, is that real estate values are soaring as a result of gentrification, and the poor are being pushed out of the city.

To find out to what extent, I took a spreadsheet I had produced years ago, with decennial Census of Population data on poverty in 1969, 1979, and 1989, and added 2014 American Community Survey data to it. And then compared data for 1979, near the city’s low ebb, with data for 2014, the most recent year available. I found that the number of non-poor people (for whom poverty status could be determined) had increased by over 1 million (18.6%) over 35 years. And the number of poor people, rather than decreasing or staying the same, has increased by more than 350,000 or 25.5%. An even faster gain. Are you surprised? I am.

Continue reading