Saturday, July 16, 2016

Affordable Housing Politics


It is an election year and therefore the silly season of campaigning is in high swing.  Politicians eager to use your hard earned income in the form of taxes to buy votes.  Simple equation everywhere.

Only in "progressive" cities like Seattle just worse.

Here is a campaign mailer from a candidate I've never heard of named Marcus Courtney.  He's running for State Representative in the Washington legislature.

He's got some ideas for providing more affordable housing.  Unfortunately, some of them contradict his stated goal.

He wants to create a Washington Department of Housing, the equivalent of HUD on the state level.  Perhaps he should first investigate HUD's dismal record in building affordable housing or the mismanagement of HUD's Section 8 program.  Since when does putting the government in charge of something actually increase market efficiency?

Next he wants local authority rent control.  No comment necessary on this nonsense.  When does rent control lead to MORE housing units?  This author is correct when he says if you want to destroy a city rent control is the best way to do it.  Maybe Mr. Courtney should visit San Francisco and learn about their rent control experience.


The photo above is not Berlin in 1945 but the South Bronx in New York City in 1980.  This devastation was the result of New York's never ending experiment with rent control.

My favorite campaign promise from the above mailer is to "ensure residential construction includes infrastructure for electric vehicles."  Perhaps Mr. Courtney does not understand the cost of installation and maintenance of this system is not borne by the landlord but by the tenants---MOST OF WHICH DO NOT DRIVE ELECTRIC CARS and NEVER WILL.  So the richer car owners will have their fuel rights subsidized by the poorer tenants who do not own cars.

Installation costs for electric car charging in apartment buildings are variable but here is one estimate for about $21,000 for a system.  That sounds very low to me given the specifications necessary but on a small apartment building of 8-20 units still prohibitive.

Mr. Courtney has other progressive ideas such as a new income tax for Washington (which currently, Thank God, does not have one) and all the usual green energy and diversity boilerplate required of all liberal candidates for office.

What I can say with certainty is imposing capital spending burdens on landlords does not create affordable housing.  Making landlords pay for things, especially boondoggles like electric car charging stations, make housing less affordable.  Do politicians think landlords are going to raid their children's scholarship funds or their own 401(k)s to pay for these retrofits?  Tenants in a building pay for all improvements through rent, a common sense idea which often eludes the political mind.


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