Monday, September 04, 2006

The Affordable Housing Debate Continues

Yesterday's Post has an article about the continuing debate on how Montgomery County should provide more affordable housing. The article opens with a single mother living in a Rockville shelter who makes just over eight thousand dollars a year, but the real focus is on how Silverman and Leggett are just trying to one-up each other:
Leggett characterized as inadequate Silverman's workforce housing program, which is expected to yield 2,500 affordable units over 20 to 30 years, and the moderately priced housing program, which produced 400 units last year . . . Silverman also has attacked Leggett's plan for clusters of middle-class housing, saying it would create economically segregated communities -- an assertion Leggett has rejected. "I just think that's a bad idea," Silverman said. "That's not the policy of economic integration that we have had."
It's a shame that our two front-runners are squabbling over proposals that neither of which will do anything to improve the County's affordable housing crisis. Silverman's plan, which involves allowing developers to build taller buildings in exchange for providing affordable housing, would produce barely one hundred affordable homes per year. It sounds like for all of the new towers the County will get there will be only a slight increase in subsidized units. Maybe it is a reward for developers, as Leggett said.

But he doesn't get off so easily, either. Leggett's proposal is to build clusters of about fifty moderately priced homes throughout the County, though he doesn't say where they would go. This doesn't seem any better than the current MPDU program, which has produced incongruous-looking projects like the Scotland community in Potomac, best known as the breeding ground for Churchill High's football team. Are a handful of poor black families in a super-wealthy town "diversity"? No.

Maybe Leggett wants to see a revival of the massive, 1940's-era developments like Viers Mill Village in Glenmont. Sixty years ago, it was completely white and completely middle-class; today, it's become a place for families of all colors to work their way up the economic ladder, as can be seen in the multiple additions tacked on to the little bungalow-style houses. Subsidized housing is not an end; it's a means to better and more stable life for families in need. When our County Executive candidates finally understand that, we can start working on the affordable housing crisis.

Crossposted at Just Up The Pike.


Blogger Dan Gillis III said...

good stuff

9/04/2006 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Schnee said...

Your photo doesn't even look affordable to me and I'm not poor.

I figure the housing bubble bursting should help towards making homes in MC more affordable to average people.

9/04/2006 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Godfrey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/06/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Godfrey said...

Affordable housing is a "triple net loser" to local government budgets.

First is that a cheap house provides lower property and transfer taxes. The property and transfer tax payoff from turning such properties into luxe condos (with high turnover) is huge, for affordable housing for families with kids less so.

Second is that lower-income people need more government. A wealthy neighborhood will have less crime and more private crime prevention with gates, alarms, etc; a low-income neighborhood needs cops. Ditto public v. private school, public v. private transit, etc.

Third is the down-drag of property values from affordable housing. What makes a house valuable? Comparables in the area. Affordable housing often increases crime rates and lowers local school performance scores, which affects in turn property values and thus property taxes on other properties. So the losses leach out further. None of this is politically correct but economics bear it out.

There is a house price point below which the County is a net loser on revenue, because taxes from that property and other properties drop while marginal costs increase. Affordable housing plans must cope with these bitter truths to succeed.

9/06/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger thecourtyard said...

About the picture: yes, the house in the picture is probably worth well over a half-million dollars - not affordable by any stretch - but I used it because all the shutters are falling down. A creative person could interpret that as a commentary on the state of housing in Metro D.C., or the price bubble, or something like that =)

9/07/2006 04:40:00 PM  

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