Another Brain-Dead Housing Initiative

Foreclosed house on the market in Richmond for $103,587 — 1,434 square feet of living space. Source: Zillow.

by James A. Bacon

Broadly speaking, there are two ways to create a supply of affordable housing in Virginia. One is to loosen zoning restrictions so developers and home builders can build more houses and apartments, thus relieving scarcity and putting a downward pressure on prices across the board. The other is for the government to arrange for the construction of lower-income housing. Governor Ralph Northam is doubling down on the latter strategy.

Yesterday the Governor announced that his proposed budget will include $92 million in new funding to address housing affordability, eviction rates, and housing for the disabled. Of that sum, $63 million will go to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, which provides financing for affordable housing.

Here’s the irony. In the Richmond region, the cost for the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority to build new “affordable housing” units runs as high as $250,000 per unit. The median home value — half of the houses on the market are more expensive, half less expensive — in the Richmond market is $223,400, according to Zillow. In other words, it costs government more to build a unit of low-income housing than for the private sector to provide middle-income housing.

Why would that be? I posit the existence of a “housing/industrial complex” in which vast sums of money are consumed by planning, consultants, studies, and administrative overhead; and, further, in which developers and home builders must penetrate a thicket of rules and regulations, thus reducing the number of participants in the lower-income market and suppressing price competition. That’s over and above the challenge of getting local government permission, often in the face of NIMBY resistance, to find a location to build the housing.

Whatever the exact case, so-called “affordable” housing provided by the government is unaffordable to the taxpayer.

The root cause of unaffordable housing is the inability of supply to keep up with demand. Between 2010 and 2017, according to American Community Survey data, Virginia’s population increased by 6.6% while the number of housing units increased only 3.0%. When more people bid for a limited supply of houses (either to buy or rent), the price of houses goes up! This is not rocket science!!

So, Virginia can continue down its path of suppressing home building through local zoning codes and regulations, or pretending to do something by making paltry symbolic gestures — at the expense of taxpayers — that accomplish almost nothing. The $63 million Northam proposes to put in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund is the equivalent of building about 250 housing units at $250,000 a pop, if we use Richmond prices as a benchmark — and fewer units if we use Northern Virginia’s $350,000 per unit as a benchmark. Compared to the magnitude of the problem, the benefit to Virginia’s poor will be imperceptible.

Without fundamental reforms to zoning policies and housing markets, population will continue to outstrip the supply of new housing, prices will continue to push higher, the cost of housing will become increasingly unaffordable to lower-income Virginians, and the brain-dead political class will “do something” about the problem by pouring more taxpayer money into failed solutions.

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44 responses to “Another Brain-Dead Housing Initiative”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    You knocked this one out of the park, Jim.

    Let me add, however, that Blackface Northam’s “unaffordable housing” proposal will earn him much money in campaign contributions from “certain interested home builders,” turning the latter into yet another corrupted crony capitalist industry in Virginia, yet another Virginia den of thieves beholden to today’s cartel of Virginia democratic leaders, along with about every other non captive special interest in Virginia.

    History will show that the greatest harm that Blackface Northam and his policies did to Virginia is that they thoroughly corrupted everything and everyone they touched. Like, in The Godfather, their policies are designed to corrupt and take captive and control all that they touch so as to maintain and enlarge their power, while they suck the middle classes dry, using the money of the middle class for the private advantage of the few politicians who run the show.

    This is the classic example of how third world nations are run by warlords, crime families and oligarchs. Insofar as concerns its political structure and operation, Virginia is turning fast into Banana Republic territory.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Not surprisingly, I don’t agree with the basic premise: ” … loosen zoning restrictions so developers and home builders can build more houses and apartments, thus relieving scarcity and putting a downward pressure on prices across the board” .. it’s become a never ending canard from folks on the right.

    And here’s the reason why. In Virginia, ANY developer can propose ANY rezone – and they do it all the time to ask for more than the base zoning allows including higher density. And these proposals are approved all the time. It’s the norm in the Fredericksburg Area these days. Almost every development is a rezone.

    This kind of zoning process is NOT “exclusionary” – it is the way that a locality must bargain and negotiate for how the impacts of higher density will be remediated – and what share is the developers and what share is the taxpayers.

    In my mind, this is a fundamental responsibility of government for those taxpayers who already live there.

    If we actually did “loosen” zoning unilaterally, developers would end up with no responsibility and taxpyers all of it.

    Higher densities (for ALL KINDS of housing, regardless of price) have direct impacts on roads, fire & rescue, water/sewer, libraries – that affect everyone already living there.

    Truth is that low income housing has the SAME impacts on infrastructure and services as higher cost housing. They all need roads, fire and rescue, etc.

    To “loosen zoning” would be a failure of govt in my view and a disservice to those who already live there who would have to shoulder the burden of stress on existing infrastructure and services and would have to pay higher taxes to remediate.

    And yet – the continuing narrative is that the lack of affordable housing is the fault of government for failing to “loosen regulation”.

    Show me which localities in Virginia have “loosened” their zoning and as a result got more affordable housing… I’d like to see that list.

    we need to kill this canard if we are serious about solutions.

    I’m NOT saying that Northam’s “Mo Money” is THE solution, far from it, but the canard being promoted is every further away from any solutions. Zoning is a necessary and important function of government and it applies to ALL development – equally – density is an issue no matter what price range is involved.

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      “In Virginia, ANY developer can propose ANY rezone. And these proposals are approved all the time.”

      What’s the point in Zoning then, if it’s so easy to change? Why do we waste valuable resources funding a system that apparently does nothing?

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I am not willing to buy the argument that tight zoning policies are the root cause of the lack of affordable housing. But, neither can I understand why it costs $250,000 per unit to build “affordable” housing.

    There has to be a better way. I admit that housing policy is not an area in which I have a lot of experience. But, why not give low-income folks vouchers to use to buy or rent housing. This would be similar to our use of food stamps. It would be a relatively simpler program to administer and would be using existing market forces. Conservatives advocate the use of vouchers for schools, so it would seem that this could be a program they could support.

    As sympathetic as I am to trying to address the problems of poverty, it seems that the Governor is just throwing money at the problem with his proposals. The biggest chunk, $63 million, is for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. According to the website of the Department of Housing and Community Development, 80 percent of the funding available in this program is used for short, medium, and long-term loans for projects to reduce housing costs, while the remaining 20 percent is for grants for targeted efforts to reduce homelessness. (At least most of it is a revolving loan fund.) The funding for that program is about $9.5 million annually. If the Governor’s proposal is adopted, the annual funding would increase more than fourfold, from $9.5 million to $42 million. It has been my experience that no program can efficiently absorb that much of an increase overnight.

    Because the Housing Fund is fairly new, it would be better to examine what it is doing and how effective those efforts are before just throwing more money at it. (This goes back to the recent discussion on this blog of evaluating the effectiveness of government programs.)

    Another component of the Governor’s proposal is $6.6 million for a pilot program aimed at “preventing and halting” evictions. (Isn’t that a redundancy?) This funding would support local and regional organizations. Again, my experience is that $3.3 million annually spread around local and regional organizations is not going to accomplish much except support a lot of administrative overhead. Besides, a pilot program for evictions is not needed. In a lot of the reporting last year on evictions, there seemed to be a consensus that the best way to assist lower-income folks facing eviction was to provide them with legal representation. In his budget proposal last year, the Governor requested $2.6 million for the State Bar to use to increase legal representation for low-income people in eviction cases. The General Assembly cut that amount in half and designated for increases in staff for the State Bar (whatever that meant). The Governor could likely help more poor people facing eviction by directing that $6.6 million for additional legal representation that to nebulous pilot programs.

    There is another population that faces significant housing issues—recently released inmates. This is probably the most frequent problem facing the Department of Corrections in preparing home plans for inmates to be released on supervision (most inmates have a court-ordered period of supervision upon release). Many of these inmates have burned their bridges with family members and have nowhere to go. Especially difficult is finding housing for inmates with mental health issues or those with a history of sexual offenses. DOC does have some funding for emergency, short-term housing. Most of this type of housing is in motels. (Some of the tourists in Williamsburg would be surprised at who is living in the rooms in their motels.) Diverting some of the pot of money proposed by the Governor to DOC would help to address both public safety and housing issues.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think Conservatives basic premise is that it is Govt that causes the problem that the free market would fix it if allowed and from there they indict govt zoning as the problem.

    Which if you think about it – all govt assistance in the area of housing could be de-funded and just let the free market “work”.

    I don’t think even rock-ribbed Conservatives actually believe that so the argument shifts to exactly WHAT the govt should do – and I happen to agree with the voucher approach but suspect the amount of money needed would become as large as the Medicaid budget and not feasible.

    And do we really want to see single stand-alone projects developed for low-income folks? Haven’t we tried that and it was a massive failure?

    Beyond that, when we tend to site low-income housing in particular areas – it results in low-income school problems…

    There are no easy answers but the simplistic idea that “zoning” is the root of all evil and causes it is just a lazy excuse for those that don’t want to really deal with the issue substantively.

    The problem is we have a fair number of people who do not earn enough in wages to pay for the going rate for housing.

    And it’s not like we never realized this. The whole idea behind transit is to provide mobility for low income folks.. and it too is attacked as too expensive and not effective.

    Ditto for schools in low-income neighborhoods – attacked for spending gobs of money and not being effective.

    Finally, less we take a “we are doomed” viewpoint – this same problem exists worldwide – and in most 3rd world country – “housing” consists of cardboard shacks located near trash dumps… not that dastardly “exclusionary zoning”!

  5. VDOTyranny Avatar

    To Dick’s point… It’s not just zoning, but a myriad of other agencies and entities that have hooks in the process. Even by-right uses take ever more engineers and studies to get approved, even what should be (used to be) simple housing developments. Billable hours, studies, fees, proffers, increasing bond requirements, nutrient credits.

    The engineering firms are hand-in-hand with the regulations, since it drives up the billable hours. Simple things that a contractor could do in the field now have to be studied and engineered. Everything requires a permit. Delays and re-engineering because the local regulators struggle how to implement the regulations promulgated by the ivory tower state agencies. It goes on…

    Cronyism and Bureaucracy go hand in hand.

    Full House:

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      VDOTyranny makes an excellent just above.

      One technique of vote buying by the leftist leviathan state is to sell off segments of markets to special interests, creating mini or maxi cartels locally, statewide and nationally, by reason regulatory complexity, thickets of fees, rules, capital requirements, and licensing schemes, that pay off special interests in return for votes and political support. For example, try to refinance your house mortgage after 24 months, and see how much money you waste and aggravation you get all charged by special interests who do next to nothing but gouge you on faux services and false charges. You can thank your corrupt politicians for this.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Please give me some examples of “faux services and false charges” encountered in refinancing that are the result of actions by politicians, rather than the banking and real estate industries.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          The mortgage industry is among the most government regulated industries in the United States. It has been weighted down by government politicians and their bureaucrats since at least the early 1970s when I began drafting mortgage loan documents and closing forms for the mortgage industry to comply with these ever changing additions to Federal and local laws.

          So, this accretion of heavily mandated government regulation has been going now for at least 50 years. Over that long period of time, the nonsense and waste has reach gigantic proportions, piles and piles of documents and forms nobody reads and few understand, yet burdened by endless lists of requirements, duties, and needless tasks and aggravations.

          It’s gotten so bad that many smaller banks have gotten out of the business simply because of the time and labor required by regulation to close a simple loan is too expensive, laborious and burdensome. This needless busywork has been turned over to what amounts to government created monopolies.

          Meanwhile, the costs that should be dropping given technology, does the reverse, getting ever higher and abusive. For example, title search and assessment 50 years ago could take hours, even days, and with much judgement required, a noble profession. Today the great majority of this work can be done in seconds by computer, and are done over and over again at a far quicker pace, not every 30 years, but factions thereof, given the quick turnover of property and mortgages today. Yet the prices of closing and title work keep escalating.

          Then, of course, local, state, federal politicians and bureaucrats have poisoned the real estate sale and mortgage marketplace, doing great harm to American citizens. As usual, the poor and middle class take the biggest hit, going broke buying a house or shoved out of the market altogether. This takes many forms. Transfer and conveyance taxes and escrows, for example, are manipulated and escalated regularly to cover out of control government spending. This often interferes with interstate commerce, punishing out of staters trying buy in a state for example. And along the way the state sanctioned theft of other peoples’ wealth is enormous. For example, the greatest theft and destruction of black peoples’ wealth in modern American history was the 2008 collapse of the subprime mortgage industry, a market poisoned by a Democratic Congressional vote buying scheme instigated and run, over Republican objection, during the Bush Administration. Of course, all this disruption and inference with markets, the stealing and destroying other people’s wealth, is standard operating procedure in a leviathan state, particularly in leftist states, oligarchies, and heavily regulated states run by unaccountable and oppressive bureaucracies of all sorts in public, quasi public, and private sectors.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Over the long span of history, the circumstance and methods of heists, robbery, and thievery never change, only the disguises change, worn by the evil doers who, as often as not, range up into the highest levels of society.

            Indeed piracy, plundering, racketeering, trafficking, highway robbery, heists, and scams have been with us since humans first walked the earth. The smartest, most successful and admired thieves contrive elaborate ways to prey upon others at the richest and most vulnerably point of their lives. The robber Barons with castles on the most narrow bends of the Rhine. Privateers striking heavily laden gold ships slow on isolated watery spots off distant new found wild coasts, say off newly discovered America. The British jump-started an empire this way. So the path to stolen riches also won honor and glory when declared to be in service of a nation’s empire building. Thieves then could become knights. Sir Frances Drake and Sir Henry Morgan, or, in any event, if ruthless enough, immortal – the likes of “Long Ben” Henry Every, “Black Bart” Bartholomew Roberts , and William Kidd, such blood lust buccaneers brought rich caravans to heal, even a nation’s commerce to its knees, for private ill gotten treasures beyond imagination.

            Over time, the shrewish among the thieves realized that key to seizing grand ill gotten wealth was to strike the victim at his most vulnerable and richest point. Here, at this intersection, hapless but fat prey are most easily and safely plundered for the predators greatest advantage. The fail-proof quick hit heists took skill, smarts, disguise and surprise, under the cover of glory or the law.

            So, as nations developed out of tribes, the shrewdest few contrived elaborate systems to bilk and despoil the rest of humanity under cover of righteousness, if not law.

            Certainly now this sort of maneuver for private plunder has grown to become one of America’s biggest industries, for the theft of money, privilege, status, prestige or political power at the expense of other citizens, their heritage and society.

            Of course we’ve seen this again and again, the infamous tactics and scams of funeral homes and elder care draining the grieving, elderly or dying of their vulnerable wealth.

            I believe this also happening to many poor and middle class families or singles who go to try to buy their first home. That very moment of closing on the deal is the very moment in time when these buyers are likely the richest they will be with a big loan to buy what likely is the biggest and most important asset they will ever own. It’s also when they are most vulnerable, at what should be among the happiest moments of their lives. How little most of them know what is going on, and what they are defenseless against. The great irony here is that they are signing heaps of documents claiming to protect them, just at the time they are being grossly overcharged by most everyone else involved, most especially by their own government.

            The same scams are going on in many of our universities and colleges today with big help from government, many institutions living on the hog off plunging other people, mostly the young and their parents into debt that now amounts to 1.5 trillion dollars.

    2. VDOTyranny Avatar

      Thank you for acknowledging my points above, but I would like to also point out that this is not just a “leftist” issue. Conservatives are just as guilty.

      Career politicians are incentivized to pass more regulations, to create ever more dependence on their services to constitutes. But, if you’re not connected, be prepared to be told to pound sand.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        I agree with you generally, but I would suggest that Trump’s policy is fundamentally different. He is not a swamp dweller.

        Right now, America has a fundamental choice in 2020:

        Do they want more of a Trump economy that has proven itself over past 3+ years to be an engine that creates new wealth in great amounts for all the American people?

        Or do they want a leftist economy, perhaps even an extreme one, that will surely drain wealth from all of the American people? And stifle new growth.

        It’s about that simple.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          From 2010 to 2018, the GDP increased each year. Of those 9 years, Obama was president in 7 of them, Trump, 2. Therefore, it is difficult to understand how this period of growth can be characterized as the “Trump economy”.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            No, Obama’s recovery was slowest on record. And it happened despite itself, because Obama’s policies wanted to stifle the economy, choke the economy off from its core power, affordable energy prices, and suffocate its growth by choking, mind boggling regulation, all of which Trump free up, and cut way back. In fact, Obama belittled Trumps claims to growth going forward, only to be proved totally wrong. On the economy, Obama had not a clue. In fact and deed, he was anti growth, “you didn’t built that, your government did.”

          2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            Yes, the recover under Obama was slower than in the past, (not sure it was slowest on record) but it has been the longest on record. During the Obama years, the average annual growth in real GDP was 2.16 percent (using BEA data), slightly higher than the 2.11 percent annual growth in real GDP under Trump. (These averages are calculated by using the logarithmic values of the end points, a method favored by economists.) “Facts are stubborn things.” The rest of your response is just unsubstantiated ranting.

          3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Dick, it is hardly a rant to say that Obama worked to shut down the coal industry, the gas industry, the gas pipeline industry, and the nuclear power industry, as well as the local banking industry, plus he racked up more federal debt in eight years than had been accumulated in the nations entire History, most of it through giveaways (including his stimulus package claimed for shovel ready projects that built largely nothing while rewarding his political supporters with cash instead (along with the Iranians).

            Then of course he drove health care cost through the roof for most Americans, turning the industry (20% of economy) upside down, limiting Americans choice of doctors while driving up their deductibles. Plus he added huge costs onto Higher education including by way of false and damaging solutions to rape scares, and juicing up higher education research ambitions and hence costs by promising universities massive increases in federal research funding that was never delivered, but passed on to students, parents and taxpayers.

            This doesn’t even get close to the bottom of the huge bulk of new federal regulations, laws, rules that Obama forced on governments throughout the nation by presidential executive orders (he couldn’t get them passed by Congress), driving up costs on goods and services throughout the national economy, stunting its growth and health, and risking our security, while starving America’s national defense, and reeking harm on our culture and vital network of private institutions and rural small town America. What a record!

          4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            Whatever you think of individual policies under Obama, the fact is he inherited, from a Republican president, an economy in the greatest crisis since the Depression. When he turned it over to Trump, the economy was in the midst of its longest expansion in history. Along the way, he saved the U.S. automotive industry. Since assuming the Presidency, the economy under Trump has experienced a lower average annual growth rate than it did in 7 years under Obama.

            It is interesting that you bring up the debt compiled in the Obama administration. In the just concluded fiscal year, a period of low unemployment and low interest rates, the U.S. deficit was $984 billion and it is expected to exceed $1 trillion in the current fiscal year. The 2019 deficit was the highest since 2012, a period of higher unemployment and during its recovery from the collapse during the last Republican president. The annual deficit generally decreased each year during the Obama administration. During the so-called “Trump economy”, it has increased each year, despite low unemployment and GDP growth. What a record!

          5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Dick, you got your facts all wrong.

            You say: “Whatever you think of individual policies under Obama, the fact is he inherited, from a Republican president, an economy in the greatest crisis since the Depression.”

            What in fact happened to spark this recession was the direct result of Democratic Congressional corruption, using Fannie and Freddie to poison the subprime mortgage market (think Barney Frank), a vote buying scheme cooked up by Democrats that blew up the American economy in 2008.

            You say: It is interesting that you bring up the debt compiled in the Obama administration. In the just concluded fiscal year, a period of low unemployment and low interest rates, the U.S. deficit was $984 billion and it is expected to exceed $1 trillion in the current fiscal year.”

            And why is that? Because the Democrats held the nation’s defenses hostage, including military spending hostage, to force their continued expansion of out of control entitlements so as to get a federal budget passed through Congress.

            And, before that, remember the Obama Democratic Congresses, how the Democrats suspended the Federal Budget process altogether for years, so they could continue their reckless entitlement spending 4 four ways to Sunday. I am shocked at your attitude, you being government budget expert defending such reckless behavior, akin to the Democrat’s revolutionary impeachment tactics commenced in November of 2016, before a Republican President took office.

          6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            What facts did I did get wrong? The fact that the economy was in desperate straits when Obama took office? The fact that during 7 years in which Obama was in office, the GDP grew? The fact that we are now in the longest economic expansion in history, the first 7 years of which happened during the Obama administration? The fact that the average annual GDP rate increase was higher under Obama than during Trump? The fact that the deficit has increased each year under Trump, despite low unemployment and low interest rates?

            This thread started off with my taking issue with the notion of a wonderful “Trump economy” and offering some facts to argue that Trump inherited this economy from Obama and that it is not growing at any faster rate than it did then.

            You seem to want to ignore those facts and, instead, engage in a lot of unsubstantiated rhetoric. I don’t have the time nor inclination to deal with that.

        2. VDOTyranny Avatar

          It amazes me the credit POTUS (regardless of who it is) for systems as complex as the economy. If one person really has this much power, shouldn’t we be asking why?

  6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    There are effective ways to deal with affordable housing, like there are effective ways to deal with site development. Both are needed. But expect only one to be dealt with effectively, given today’s politics.

    There are also highly effective ways to deal with evictions that are critically needed to maintain safe, well kept, and orderly housing, but don’t expect any such solution now in many places, given today’s politics.

    Trumps success at building a soaring economy that lifts the boats of ALL Americans for the first time in decades, ironically makes these affordable housing and eviction issues more difficult to solve. Democrats are running scared. They need to promise to give away ever more money, like $250,000 homes to the poor. After all, its peanuts when UVa. pres. James Ryan gets $10,000,000++ just to renovate his place.

    To buy people and votes, democrats need to get everybody’s hands in cash register of the public’s money.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    Good Lord. Affordable housing has been an issue for decades through many POTUS and GOvs…

    it’s a problem like traffic congestion and crime.

    blaming VODT for it is amusing but no more surprising than blaming zoning!

    In order to believe this – we’d have to believe that all govt everywhere and all agencies like VDOT are part of some conspiracy… of “elites” which apparently is popular among some..

    But if we were to believe these folks – they’d have some specifics as to how to fix the problem – right?

    Something beyond just blaming govt and agencies in toto, …

    for instance, what zoning should do instead..

    and what VDOT should do instead…

    real alternatives to the current…

    but no.. it’s not really about that -it’s about blaming govt and VDOT as entities… policy specifics – no need…. they’re just bad actors… right?

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      Yes, stop promulgating more regulations.

      To believe it, you have to have experience actually trying to accomplish something. I have no idea what your background is Larry, but if you’ve run a business for more than a few years you cannot argue that regulatory compliance is not an ever-increasing cost.

      This is an incentive problem. There are a myriad of 3 and 4 letter agencies and local, state and federal levels, each promulgating more and more regulations. Career politicians incentivized to create ever more dependence on their services to constitutes. In the private sector, more consultant services to help navigate the ever-increasing regulatory complexity all driving up costs and creating a self-pertuating system. This is an incentive problem.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        @VDOTyranny – you don’t have to run a business to realize that regulations are numerous – no question. All you have to be is someone who wants to build a deck or a home addition or put in a backup generator or virtually anything on land you own.

        It can take weeks/months depending on what you want to do.

        But I do not think an attitude that any regulation at all is bad and needs to be done away with.

        I do NOT want my neighbor to open a 100-dog kennel or burn his waste in an open barrel or set up a firing range nor build a hundred apartments, etc… that’s where regulation comes from.

        And for that matter, I do not want “businesses” to set up shop without regulation…

        so regulation is what citizens want not some nefarious conspiracy by elites…

        And specifically with respect to affordable housing and zoning – most people support controls on rezoning to require development to be appropriate for where it is proposed and for a process that defines it’s impact on taxpayer-provided infrastructure and services be quantified and that the developer mitigate the impacts on existing people and taxpayers.

        1. VDOTyranny Avatar

          Once again, you miss the point. There is an ever increasing regulatory burden contributing the rising cost of development.

          There is a cost benefit to anythign you do. If you want regulation, it going to drive up costs. Stronger zoning is going to restrict supply.

          It seems to me that you are OK with the rising cost of living.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Regulation is not only necessary but it actually increases value by minimizing damage which is often considered an “externality” by the individual who would benefit from no regulation.

            If you ask someone why a regulation is bad – they’ll tell you how it harms them – but they’ll seldom admit that their gain comes from others losses.

            Just take something simple like the regulation that requires gasoline to meet a specified octane level. The suppliers would benefit enormously if they could sell a lower octane product for the same or more money.

            How would you deal with this? In an unfettered free market the octane of gasoline would vary all over the map and no one would have a clue as to whether they were paying a fair price or not.

            Take another – those who would adulterate food with lower quality ingredients or even harmful ingredients. USDA Choice and Prime would be unverified claims…

            I can go on and on – but most people support most regulation when you get down to specifics and away from the high level anti-regulation rhetoric.

            People actually get HIGHER VALUE gasoline and food BECAUSE of regulation.

            The same is true of development regulations. The impact costs of development are quantified by regulation and the taxpayer is protected from having to essentially subsidize development that does not pay it’s full costs – unless regulation requires it.

          2. VDOTyranny Avatar

            As a libertarian, I’ll accept that Government is a necessary Evil as some minimal amount of regulation is inevitable. But to say that regulation reduces costs to society takes some real fuzzy math. At best, a perfectly efficient regulation shifts the burden from one group to another. The burden doesn’t magically go away. While shifted, the cost still exists, but regulation will generate administrative overhead that adds to that cost shift.

            In the long run, developers (investors) aren’t going to develop (invest) if they aren’t able to add enough value to overcome these regulatory burdens and turn a profit. The shifted costs and the administrative overhead created by regulation are going to be passed along and eventually redistributed back thru society. Or, by making projects unprofitable, excessive regulation reduces supply which in turn drives up costs. Either way, the cost to society increases. There is no free lunch.

            The best way to handle most externalities is to privatize them as much as possible. The property owner is the most efficient caretaker of property, and the consumer is the most efficient regulator. Information asymetry is a legitiment issue, as transparancy is often lacking. Better transparancy can be from public or private sources. Most businesses are going to be incentived to be honest (you can alwasy point out exceptions to anything). As is often discussed on this blogs, the government does take the side of the more politically influential. Its up to the consumer to decide who is telling the truth, but in a highly regulated market (i.e electricity) you have no\limited choice.

            You are trying to “prove” yourself by making extreme and twisted assertions… conflating concern with excessive regulation as anarchy, for example. That tactic can work both ways, but I won’t waste my time.

            Cronyism and Bureaucracy go hand-in-hand

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    I can’t speak for NoVa or Richmond but our county has grown from 15,000 to 130,000 in the space of two decadex or so and almost all of the growth came from rezones for more density.

    We have the opposite problem. No one here is blaming the BOS or VDOT for the lack of “affordable” housing – they’re actually blaming them for approving rezones that are overcrowding the highways and schools.

    My bet is that NoVa and Richmond are similar… that sentiment of the voters is NOT that there is not enough affordable housing but instead too much has been approved and they want more restrictions NOT “looser regulation”.

    Now.. how this gets blamed on “elites” and VDOT is beyond me!

    1. VDOTyranny Avatar

      As someone stated, many people want ot be the last one to move in, pull up the draw bridge, etc.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Yes, you can see that going on all over the country, meanwhile many other areas of our cities are falling into cultural collapse. Check out Baltimore, Philly, Chicago too now. The cycle goes round and round powered by failing leaders then resurrected every few decades by a few strong competent ones in the lucky cities or parts anyway.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Yes, there is NIMBY, no question but even without it – there are issues about impacts and development paying it’s own way.

        The regulations are a process to require a negotiation between the Govt who represents taxpayers and the developer who represents investors.

        Of course developers would prefer no regulation but we know from past experience that developers will externalize costs to others and maximum profits for themselves. That’s just human nature.

        Now – if you actually had a developer who purchased a large parcel of land and everything inside that parcel from roads to water/sewer to schools to fire/rescue was provided by the developed and allocated to the folks who bought homes – that would be fair to others outside the development but almost no developers propose that, they are looking to get subsidized by the govt on infrastructure and services. And they get away with it a LOT!

        1. VDOTyranny Avatar

          Or unilaterial “negotiation” between the Government, which often represents special interests, and the consumer who is forced to pay the inflated costs.

          Cronyism and Bureaucracy go hand-in-hand

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            weren’t you just arguing that regulation hurts businesses?

            when it comes to zoning and development – and govt will not give carte-blanche to developers unless they remediate impacts, how is that “cronyism”?

          2. VDOTyranny Avatar

            Larry – Why are you stereotyping? Most people and business can’t afford to crony-up. Do you think all businesses get the favors that, say, Dominion gets?

            Excessive regulations are typically created by the Special Interest, for the benefit of the Special Interest. The rest of us pay the cost, directly or indirectly. Cronyism and Bureaucracy go hand-in-hand.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: “effective” policies for affording housing.

    Have to ask – what are they and are there any places that have them?

    Are there any localities at all who have less restrictive regulations and, as a consequence, have more affordable housing?

    The idea that all of them are have none across the board strains credulity and sounds a lot like a general anti-govt mindset.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Yes, the recover under Obama was slower than in the past, (not sure it was slowest on record) but it has been the longest on record.”

    Yes…Because the damage to the economy was so profound that it almost took the economy into a depression and it happened BEFORE Obama took office:

  11. VDOTyranny Avatar

    “As a whole, this paper concludes that America does not uniformly face a housing affordability crisis. In the majority of places, land costs are low (or at least reasonable) and housing prices are close to (or below) the costs of new construction. In the places where housing is quite expensive, zoning restrictions appear to have created these highprices.”

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Good for Harvard. It is right this time.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      It’s a valid paper but it does not actually distinguish exactly what zoning elements are the problem nor show which urban areas do not have affordable housing issues as a direct result of less restrictive zoning regulations.

      Such a paper would, for instance, allow us to go look at NoVo and identify specifically the zoning regulations that are causing affordability problems and we could then advocate for changes to zoning regulations.

      I see none of that actually done. Even the proponents of more affordable housing to not cite zoning as the issue. The folks who cite zoning as a problem typically are opposed to most all regulation – their primary agenda.

      Let’s hear from those who actually are advocating more affordable housing – what they advocate for in terms of regulations.

      1. VDOTyranny Avatar

        Larry, are you not advocating for more affordable housing?

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I AM but I do not see convincing arguments about how it can be provided or conversely how it is kept from being provided by zoning.

          The basic premise that affordable housing should be provided for dense projects – is wrong to start with. Housing low-income people together is not a good strategy. Voucher that allow individuals to seek affordable housing wherever they can find it – is better.

          What I WILL admit is that when a jurisdiction uses zoning to prevent the conversion of basements or other mother-in-law lofts, etc that – that IS restricting zoning.

          That would be a GOOD valid way to make the case by comparing cities that allow it verses cities that do not – and the percentage of affordable housing for each.

          I DO NOT agree with the premise that failure to approve dense zoning is the issue – again because putting a bunch of low income folks in one development is a recipe for other problems.

          Buildling dense with a mixture of housing costs would be a better way – but that’s how zoning works – to elicit a proposal to that effect and incentivize it.

          Developers are not really interested in it – they want to maximize their profit and that means higher dollar developments.

          Compare that to car dealers that make good profits on well equipped SUVs and Trucks compared to low profits on smaller stripped-down cars.

          I’m NOT at all convinced that “looser” zoning for more density will result in more affordable housing. I have to see some real data.

        2. VDOTyranny Avatar

          Larry – Regarding denser zoning, the Antiplanner agrees with you:

          IDK the politics in NoVa, but in my part of the RoVA the planners and agencies are pushing for densification over single-family homes.

  12. djrippert Avatar

    Why is it any surprise that localities don’t want affordable housing? The taxes paid by those living in affordable housing are often less than the pro-rata costs of providing government services to the residents of affordable housing. Of course, county boards and city councils never admit that they don’t want more affordable housing but they don’t.

    Don’t believe me? The humanist, thoughtful, progressive, socialist mayor of New York City is exporting his homeless rather than paying to build more affordable housing in The Big Apple (don’t mind the maggots). It’s cheaper to hand the homeless a plane ticket and some money in an effort to get them to move out than to solve the affordable housing problem.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    We also need to better define what “affordable” actually means. In the Fredericksburg area , we have more than 50,000 daily commuters on I-95 who have jobs in NoVa and moved to our area for “affordable” housing.

    Did we use restrictive zoning to stop them from coming? Nope. We’ve approved dense re-zones out the wazoo….. we almost never met a rezone for density that we did not like though we have favored age-restricted housing over housing that has kids.

    The last school we built cost 100 million and put us in debt for decades and we don’t want to build another one and add to that debt but it’s probably inevitable.

    So I don’t see “regulations” and “restrictive zoning” as running rampant down our way ….for the most part but of late – proposed residential single family rezones near roads that are maxed at rush hour have been denied… on the basis that the road is already LOS F at rush hour.

    So the developers go to places where the roads are not as maxed… and get approved.

    Now if one asks if we have “affordable housing” for the local workforce – medical workers, public safety, retail service, HVAC and plumbing , etc – it’s a different story. Most commuters to NoVa make significantly more than our local workers and they tend to live in upscale subdivisoins whereas the local workforce tends to live further out in rural areas… and in apartments..

    We do not unilaterally deny dense zoning – we deny it in some locations but in other locations it’s easily approved. That’s the SAME regulation and “loosening” it across the board so developers can build dense wherever they want is not going to happen.

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