Friday, September 4, 2020

Nashville has declared war on affordable housing




by Michael Dioguardi, reposted from Facebook -  The Barnes Fund, another useless waste of money that does nothing to help with affordable housing but creates the appearance that the city is doing “something”. 

But the reality is the city IS doing something....something wrong. Local government basically has declared war on affordable housing with layers of restrictions preventing people from providing affordable housing. City planners control what sort of housing can be built — and where — through zoning and land-use laws. These central planners tell us where housing must be single-family or multi-family. They tell us if you're allowed to rent out one of your bedrooms to a non-relative. They tell us if you can build an auxiliary housing unit on your property. With so much government planning at work, the effect has been rising home prices and a higher cost of living. 

And again, those who suffer the most tend to be those with the lowest incomes. We've all seen it at work over and over again in many of these older inner suburbs: A landowner realizes the housing demand has increased in the area and attempts to put a four-unit building where a single-family home once stood. Naturally, this change will create more housing, bring down rents, and, of course, allow a private-property owner to exercise his rights as an owner. But, in many cases, the private-property owner quickly finds he has no such rights. The neighbors, who don't want to live near a row of townhouses or have more cars parked on the street will protest to the city government, demand a zoning hearing, and fight to ensure that only a single-family unit is allowed on the lot. In many cases, they'll use the increasingly-popular tactic of "downzoning" in which people who earlier bought property with the hope of developing it later will be robbed of their property rights. They'll be told: "sorry, that thing we once said you could do with your property — you can't do that anymore." This is done so that the community's other residents can maintain the status quo in that neighborhood until the end of time. 

At the same time, employment continues to expand in nearby commercial areas, so employees — instead of living in inner suburbs — must move further and further outside the urban area and commute on taxpayer-funded roads. Nor is this problem limited to what many view as primarily residential areas. Even on major thoroughfares, nearby residents will protest new apartment buildings because they are believed to be unsightly, or will create more local traffic, or are simply something different they don't like. The "solution" in this case is to shift traffic somewhere else — to the suburban freeways, for example — and shift the cost to statewide taxpayers who now must foot the bill for extending infrastructure ever further outward. 

In all these cases, one group of voters uses the power of government to force costs onto some other group of voters in some other area — and onto the workers who must live further and further from employment. This is all done to save the "character" of the neighborhood. But it's really done because many homeowners have no qualms about using the power of the state to prevent other property owners from using their own property as they see fit. Having caused the shortage of housing in places where people actually want to live, our "progressive" advocate for low density and exclusionary zoning may then attempt to sooth his conscience by advocating for a small number of subsidized housing units nearby. Or, he may demand "inclusionary zoning" which mandates that developers set aside a certain percentage of all new units as "affordable" units with legally-imposed limits on how high prices can go.

Unfortunately, thanks to the continuing role of government in housing production, attempting to meet the needs of renters and buyers continues to be an exhausting quest to deal with an endless assortment of ordinances, mandates, regulations, and plans. The current planners don't want more housing. The government planners only want a certain type of housing. Meanwhile, the renters live in smaller and smaller units, and drive further and further. But there's one thing of which we can be sure. "Capitalism" will be blamed for it all.

Michael Dioguardi lives in Nashville, Tennessee where he is a Property Manager and Residential Asset Management. He is one of my favorite commentators on Facebook. He does not comment on every snippet of news or meme but when he does comment, he writes thoughtful essays.

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1 comment:

  1. You have perfectly described the situation in Nashville (and in many other cities across the country). Sadly, it will fall on deaf ears.

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