Monday, August 29, 2016

Affordable Housing in Richardson

On one hand, people complain that Richardson is putting up more and more apartments. (And by people, I mostly mean the neighbors near the apartments. Others might be opposed, but they aren't as conspicuous in their complaints.) Apartments can be considered affordable in comparison to single family houses.

OTOH, people complain that Richardson doesn't offer enough options for low-income families who need subsidies to afford any reasonable housing. (And by people, I guess I mean me. If anyone has gone before the city council to lobby for more affordable housing for low-income families, I missed it.) The apartment developments that are approved seem to promise enough amenities to make them unaffordable to low-income families.

There's a tension here between the need for more housing and the resistance to more housing. City councils, recognizing the need to allow more housing in order to support job growth in the city and keep housing costs under control in the face of growing demand, want to see more housing. As available space in the city dwindles, that means more multi-family developments. Homeowners trying to protect the value of their investments, parents trying to maintain the quality of their neighborhood schools, all resist multi-family developments near them. This tension exists even without bringing subsidized housing for low-income families into the mix.

This is the point where I should offer some solutions, even if only glib and superficial. But I don't have any. "Given the powerful vested interests involved in exclusionary zoning, reform will require some serious political determination." That's the conclusion of Richard V. Reeves and Dimitrios Halikias in a short article from the Brookings Institution: "How land use regulations are zoning out low-income families." Sadly, I doubt that even the political determination required to pull off reform exists, to say nothing of the political skill.

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