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  • Writer's pictureBruce Mattare

Affordable Housing Anybody?

I’m seeing a lot of local articles and concerns from county citizens that we need more affordable housing. Our young people cannot afford to buy a house anymore. Most citizens have been priced out of the housing market. Restaurant and other small business employees cannot afford to live here.

These are all valid concerns, but do we want to develop housing policy based upon what is happening at this exact moment? I say no.

To be clear, I like the idea of affordable housing. But what exactly does that mean?

Nobody could’ve predicted the housing situation here two years ago. And nobody can predict it two years from now. We are moving into a world of instability, whether it’s supply chains, inflation or health care availability. One can make a reasonable argument that things are less certain today than in recent memory.

Does affordable housing mean more apartment buildings…or does it mean below market prices for homes? For those people who want less expensive homes, Real estate provides only two options: market rate or subsidized. I do not understand why subsidized housing is beneficial here, so that only leaves market rate. We know that markets go up and down, so for those wanting to purchase a home they will likely have to wait until the market goes down or they are earning more money to afford a bigger mortgage.

The “Felony Flats” Story

With respect to apartment living, my experience has shown that there are many hidden costs to building apartment communities, especially those that cater to a lower rent crowd. Here’s a story that has never been reported.

During the 2020 election campaign, Bob Norris walked the community behind Win-Co to speak with some of the homeowners living by the apartment complex there. The general sentiment from residents is that, before the apartments were constructed, you could leave toys and tools unsecured and nobody would bother them. Post construction, anything a resident left unsecured was as good as stolen.

The neighborhood changed and the quality of life dropped. The nickname for that complex is “Felony Flats” and it is a well know issue for both police and fire. It’s become a source of additional crime, higher taxpayer expense and lower quality of life for the surrounding community.

Is Making Housing Affordable Our Only Option?

I’ve seen this firsthand at many apartment complexes and subsidized housing communities. At first everything seems to work out like it should, but after renter turnover things often change for the worse.

For those people complaining about the lack of affordable housing, I’d invite them to describe exactly how it will be different here than in other communities. How will we avoid another Felony Flats or attract people who genuinely use apartment complexes as a temporary measure toward purchasing a home, compared to attracting tenants who may ultimately require subsidies.

We live in a special place with special people. That’s what defines our community and what makes it so attractive for others to want to relocate here. But for those who want affordable housing, I think it would make more sense to figure out how to get people better paying jobs so they can afford real housing. How about we focus on attracting small manufacturing and better paying jobs for adults and leave the kitchen and serving help to our young people.

I hope to discuss this issue more.

P.S. Here's a sad story that I've heard about in similar types of situations. Is it "No good deed goes unpunished" or "The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions"? You decide.

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