Private enterprise could solve the affordable housing problem
Initially it was called low-cost housing. Then it became “affordable housing.” Now it’s referred to as “attainable housing.” Generally, the pundits rattle around a figure between $150,000 and $200,000 as attainable. I believe they are totally out of touch with reality.The housing shortage for working people is a created problem, and no one is willing to go back and address the core issues.Foundationally, we have a discrimination problem that is not racial, but economic. Maybe you’ve heard of the NIMBYs. That’s the “Not In My Back Yard” people. They also say things such as, “I sure don’t want them living next to me.”Now we have the “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything” (BANANAs). The people who moved to Western Colorado and don’t want anything to change, except of course, the change we experienced when they moved here.
The enablers of all this are the Planning and Zoning Board and a great number, if not all, decisions are driven by potential property tax revenue. First of all, it’s much easier to figure tax rates if you can group properties together of similar value or usage. For instance, businesses in a zone, and then high-priced housing in another, then group “attainable” housing separately. Mixed usage is forbidden, so you don’t live where you work, and that requires more vehicles and more fuel consumption. Add the radiant heat from all that asphalt, and here comes global warming.I remember when the grocer lived in the back of his store and the druggist lived above the drugstore. Now how the heck do you assess that for tax purposes? Also, their single automobile stayed parked except on weekends.Many other factors affect the cost of housing. You can list permits which run into thousands of dollars, inspections, time delays, plan reviews, zones of influence around towns, lot size requirements, parking requirements, homeowner associations, etc.Added requirements to the developer such as underground utilities, sidewalks, curb and gutter, paved streets, impact fees and open space requirements. Also, factor in the increased borrowing and interest the developer finds necessary. All this adds to the up-front cost, which then becomes part of the final sale price, which substantially increases the cost to the buyer and ultimately generates higher property tax revenues.
End result, more money for the government, easier assessment and more power and control.The time delays significantly add to the final cost. When the developer is subjected to endless reviews and rewrites and hearings that are months apart, he is subjected to inflation in every aspect. Labor goes up, interest goes up, fuel goes up and cost of material increases.A major unintended consequence of high-cost housing is that both parents must work, which means more vehicles on the road (read that as fuel consumption and pollution). When both parents work, children are seriously short-changed, but thank goodness for the government-school nanny. The kids can’t work, but they can play sports.The number of home foreclosures indicates the problem is not only attainability but ultimately, maintainability.
Years ago, the county crafted a regulation that basically says that there shall be no high-density housing unless it’s contiguous to an existing municipality. Well, that puts you either on the mountain side or in the river valley. And by the way, that rare land is absolutely the most expensive. So much for attainable housing!Just for the sake of conversation, when was the last time anyone built a mobile home park?Flush the P & Z down the toilet and private enterprise will solve the problem in two years.Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle.
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