The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

13 August 2004

Jonesing for the 'burbs

Spoons presumably takes a dim view of "affordable housing" mandates, and quotes this Chicago Tribune report:

The Illinois Housing Development Authority is putting 49 communities on notice that they will be required to offer more affordable housing under a new state law.

The list of towns where less than 10 percent of the housing is considered affordable will be officially released Thursday, and Kenilworth, Oak Brook, Palos Heights and Inverness are among them.

Affordable-home prices in communities on the list are considered to be about $125,000, and affordable monthly rents are about $775. Those figures are determined by federal statistics that take into account income and the cost of housing in the Chicago area.

In general, housing is considered "affordable" if you don't have to spend more than 30 percent of your gross income for it. For someone making less than $2583 a month, $775 monthly rent is not "affordable." (The comparable figures for Oklahoma City for fiscal year 2004 are $1870 and $561.)

What does this new Illinois law require?

The plans must include a way for the municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing affordable, set aside at least 15 percent of new development as affordable or increase overall affordable housing by 3 percentage points.

Which is easier said than done, says Brett Blomberg, mayor of the comparatively posh village of Lincolnshire:

Lincolnshire's Blomberg questioned how a $123,720 house could be built in a town where the median home price is $400,000 and going up quickly.

"Homes are being purchased in Lincolnshire for the purpose of tearing them down and rebuilding, and [homeowners are] paying between $400,000 and $450,000 just to tear down a home," he said.

The last time I got onto this subject, I came up with this marginal wisdom:

Conventional wisdom holds that there are two kinds of residents: those who want to live at point X, and those who have no choice but to live at point X. It can probably be assumed, in the absence of de jure segregation, that the latter condition is mostly a function of economics; I could theoretically choose to live in, say, a spiffy new subdivision on the edge of town, but I couldn't possibly pony up the price of entry. At every price point, there is someone who can afford it, and someone else who can't. I imagine it wouldn't be difficult to find somebody who couldn't afford to live in my neighborhood.

At my income level, I couldn't possibly hope to live in a place like Lincolnshire. In a society with some measure of rationality, I would be urged to do one of the following: either improve that income, or go live somewhere I can afford. The town can't legally keep me out — probably wouldn't dream of keeping me out — but there's no justification for forcing a property owner in that town to sell to me, or to rent to me, at a price far below what he wants and can get.

This is not to say, of course, that I object to people living beyond their means. I do, however, object to government policies that encourage it, and to being taxed for the benefit of those thus encouraged.

Posted at 2:47 PM to Political Science Fiction


TrackBack: 3:47 PM, 25 August 2004
» Housable Income from Dust in the Light
Earlier this month (ages ago, in blog time), Charles Hill brought up the issue of "affordable housing." I've held on to the URL for so long because housing is a major issue in Rhode Island. As every informed citizen of......[read more]

Hoo boy. Could NJ land owners give them an earful or two about this. We have "Affordable" Housing laws on the books since the late '70s. The result has been some of the worst suburban sprawl and traffic jams in the nation.

The main thing to realize is that this has *nothing* to do with providing affordable housing. It is a way to bust zoning in exclusive communities so there is a more fertile field for developers to build housing.

If this were about actually providing affordable housing for lower middle class and working class folks, the emphasis would be placed on cleaning up and redeveloping decaying urban centers where there is already infrastructure, public transportation and jobs you can reach without a car.

But you make less profit de-polluting a brownfields and putting up small townhouses than you would getting Lucreville to upzone from 5 acre to 1 acre zoning and building mini-mansions.

No? Ask someone about the NJ "Builder's Remedy".

Posted by: The Proprietor at 3:25 PM on 13 August 2004

Once upon a time there was a much pithier name for "affordable housing laws."

Rent control.

Posted by: McGehee at 4:08 PM on 13 August 2004